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Vokkaliga Vote on the line as Seers sets Jan. 23 deadline for reservation increase

Just a few weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the giant statue of Bengaluru founder Nadaprabhu Kempegowda as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s bid to woo the numerically dominant Vokka leagues in poll-bound Karnataka, powerful visionaries and others have Community leaders now set a January 23 deadline for the government to increase job and education reservations for them.

The requirement is to increase the quota to 12%. The seers pointed out that while Vokkaligas make up 16% of the state’s population, the community reservation is only 4%.

“We are giving this memorandum to the government through R Ashok; for now we have submitted this. Now we have a big question about what’s next. We have already discussed it and have already set the date, January 23,” said Swami Nirmalananda, the powerful pope of Adichunchanagiri Mutt.

Recently, the state increased the reservation for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities, exceeding the 50% quota. This has opened a Pandora’s box with several communities now demanding reservations. The Congress has hinted to support the struggle, with its prominent Vokkaliga face, DK Shivakumar, putting its weight behind the agitation.

“January 23 is the deadline and the ministers have assured us that they will fight and give us justice. If there is no option then we have to fight for it,” Shivakumar, the president of the Karnataka Congress, said.

The Vokka Leagues are the dominant land-owning community in the state who have traditionally not supported the BJP. It is always the Janata Dal (secular) and the Congress that have received the votes of the Vokkaliga, especially in the ancient Mysuru region. The BJP is eager to penetrate this Vokkaliga-dominated band. While Vokkaliga leaders like Shivakumar of the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) try to lure the community with the possibility of a Vokkaliga as the next prime minister, the BJP through its community leaders like Dr. CN Ashwathnarayan and others tried to reach this block.

“We will certainly discuss this with the government and the prime minister. It is their right to demand and this government seeks to meet the expectations of all communities by ensuring that social justice and equality are given to them. We are looking at it positively and doing what we can do best within the legal frameworks,” said Health Minister K Sudhakar of Karnataka, himself a Vokkaliga.

Surprisingly, former CM and Vokkaliga leader HD Kumaraswamy took a somewhat contradictory position, arguing that a reservation increase cannot be based only on population as a parameter.

“I have never done caste politics, never will. When I first became CM I thought it was a rich class and a poor class. Here is the question what has happened to the lives of the communities, what is their financial status and educational status? Which communities have developed in terms of education, and which communities have developed financially? They should decide based on these things, not just based on the population,” Kumaraswamy said

With Karnataka crossing the 50% reservation limit, the state government is under pressure to rethink the quota matrix in the state. The Panchamasali Lingayats want reservation under the 2A backward class category, while Kurubas want to be placed in the ST list instead of the existing OBC cluster.

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