Is Congress govt. divided over caste census report as Karnataka Dy.CM is opposing it?

Political leaders from the Vokkaliga community, including Shivakumar, have written to the CM, urging him to reject the Socio-Economic and Educational Survey

November 22, 2023 08:53 pm | Updated November 23, 2023 10:24 am IST - Bengaluru

Deputy CM D K Shivakumar

Deputy CM D K Shivakumar | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

The ruling Congress in Karnataka seems to be divided on the issue of caste census as Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar on Wednesday said he signed a petition urging Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to reject the caste census report, which is expected to be submitted soon.

While Mr. Siddaramaiah was keen on accepting the caste census report and implementing it to ensure equal opportunities to all, Ministers belonging to the dominant Vokkaliga and Veerashaiva-Lingayat communities have been apparently opposing it by saying that the census was not done scientifically.

Political leaders from the Vokkaliga community of the State wrote to Mr. Siddaramaiah, urging him to reject the Socio-Economic and Educational Survey, popularly known as the caste census, conducted during his first tenure as Chief Minister. The letter, signed by leaders from the Congress, the BJP, and the JD(S), claimed that the census was not scientifically conducted.

“Many communities are fighting for proportional reservation. Scheduled Castes, Panchamasalis, Veerashaivas, and Vokkaligas are all fighting. These demands are cutting across party lines. However, certain communities have said that they had not been contacted before the census and hence are demanding a scientific caste census.”D.K. Shivakumar,Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC president

Besides Mr. Shivakumar, prominent Vokkaliga leaders such as the Leader of the Opposition R. Ashok (BJP), the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, and the former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) signed the letter.

Mr. Siddaramaiah told reporters that he had received the Vokkaligara Sangha’s petition. “But why are they opposing it even before the report is submitted? Some are opposing it without even looking at the report. Let the report come. We’ll discuss it in the Cabinet,” he said.

The Chief Minister said Mr. Shivakumar had not discussed the issue related to the caste census with him.

Mr. Shivakumar said he stands by the party’s line on the caste census but the demand of various communities for a scientific approach to the census must be considered.

“Some are opposing it without even looking at the report. Let the report come. We’ll discuss it in the Cabinet.”Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister

Speaking to reporters at the Chief Minister’s residence, he said, “Many communities are fighting for proportional reservation. Scheduled Castes, Panchamasalis, Veerashaivas, and Vokkaligas are all fighting. These demands are cutting across party lines. However, certain communities have said that they had not been contacted before the census and hence are demanding a scientific caste census.”

Asked if he had signed the petition sent to the Chief Minister, Mr. Shivakumar said, “Politicians from various communities have been rallying around this issue. Politics is different. We want our community’s self-respect to be protected,” and defended his signature on the petition. “MLAs and community leaders feel that the survey wasn’t done properly. It must be done scientifically,” he said.

The KPCC president’s reactions on the caste census came a day after Mr. Siddaramaiah posted on X (formerly Twitter): “I am determined to implement the caste census findings in order to provide “justice to communities deprived of opportunities”.

Mr. Siddaramaiah supported Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s announcement that a nationwide caste census would be commissioned if his party won the Lok Sabha polls.

On Tuesday, Siddaramaiah said that only a caste census could ensure equal opportunities. “Only then will the country’s independence be worthwhile”.

However, leaders of the State’s two dominant communities — Vokkaliga and Lingayat — have publicly announced they would oppose the caste census.

The caste census data has not been made public fearing political setbacks, particularly after some leaked data indicated that Vokkaligas and Lingayats were not the dominant castes, which was contrary to the present political argument.

A sum of ₹164 crore was spent on conducting the census.

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