BENGALURU: While at least eight different communities in Karnataka are demanding an increase in quota or inclusion in different categories of reservation, the agitation by Panchamasali Lingayats, in particular, has caused the Yediyurappa-led BJP government much embarrassment.
While Panchamasalis have been demanding to be included under the Most Backward Classes category to avail of higher reservation for decades now, the agitation has taken a sudden surge fuelled by a deadly combination of timing, pressure politics, changing undercurrent of sentiment and a demand for “payback”. Bearing the brunt of this intensified agitation is Yediyurappa’s image of the undisputed Lingayat leader.
“For decades, Yediyurappa has used the Panchamasali Lingayats for votes but has done nothing except to make one or two persons from the community ministers. Let him give us the reservation status and payback his dues to the community. If you have used us then shouldn’t you also give us our dues,” asked Basava Jaya Mrutyunjaya Swami, seer of the Kudalasangama Lingayat Panchamasali Peetha, when asked as to why the community decided to intensify its demand for 2A category reservation now.
Even as BJP leaders, including ministers like Murugesh Nirani and CC Patil, have alleged that the stir is being fanned by Congress leaders to score political brownie points and to woo the community that has strongly backed the BJP, the seer maintained the sentiment was ‘if not now then when’, considering a prominent Lingayat is at the helm in the State.
He demanded a written assurance with a definite timeline for change in reservation status by Yediyurappa failing which he has threatened to go on an indefinite fast.But a fixed timeline is barely that simple according to CM’s legal advisor Mohan Limbikai -- himself a Panchamasali Lingayat. “Under Article 342 and as per many Supreme Court judgements, a government can’t unilaterally decide to give Backward Class status to any community. The request should be referred to the backward classes commission which is a quasi-judicial authority and nobody can influence it,” he said, pointing out that a study to ascertain the socio-economic status of the community is needed before its reservation status is changed.
BJP sources insist much of the damage came from within as leaders from the community propped up the agitation as a means to get back at Yediyurappa for sidelining them from governance, appointments, ministerial berths etc. “The movement intends to weaken Yediyurappa’s leadership and destroy his image as the unquestionable leader of Lingayats. It is to isolate him and make way for alternate leadership to emerge,” opined Mahadev Prakash, political analyst who quit as Yediyurappa’s media advisor earlier this year.