Congress legislators and leaders belonging to the Banjara community have been disappointed by the denial of a Cabinet berth in the Congress government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Leaders of the Banjara/Lambani community told The Hindu on Sunday that 90% of the community voters supported the Congress in the Assembly elections following injustice meted out to the community by the BJP government led by Basavaraj Bommai which announced internal quota for the Scheduled Castes in the State.
The community has more than 45 lakh population spread largely in north Karnataka and played a significant role in the victory of Congress candidates in more than 50 constituencies, said a community leader.
In the run-up to the poll campaign, community members opposed internal quotas and put up posters banning BJP leaders from entering Lambani tandas in various districts. Members of the community also removed BJP flags hoisted on several houses and expressed their anger. After the Assembly election results were announced, many BJP Ministers and MLAs who were defeated openly admitted that they lost the elections because Lambanis voted for the Congress.
The Congress has only two legislators — Rudrappa Lamani, MLA, and Prakash Rathod, MLC — belonging to the Banjara community. During the Ministry formation, the Congress sidelined the Banjara/Lambani community, which rejected the BJP and voted for the Congress in the elections, the leader said.
Mr. Rathod visited Delhi and lobbied hard seeking a ministerial berth to the community. He had toured more than 100 Assembly segments during the Praja Dhwani rallies and poll campaign of the Congress.
Mr. Rathod’s father, K.T. Rathod, was the first Banjara community Minister in the D. Devaraj Urs government and also served as the KPCC president (1980-83).
Supporters of Mr. Lamani, Haveri MLA, staged a protest in front of the KPCC office in Bengaluru and other parts of north Karnataka for denying representation for their leader in the Cabinet which was expanded on Saturday following the induction of 24 Ministers.
“If Mr. Lamani does not get the ministerial post, we will protest against this because we gave our 75% votes to the Congress in the election, so there should be at least one leader from our community,” said the MLA’s supporters.
Sources said, AICC president M. Mallikarjun Kharge played a role in denying a ministerial berth to the Banjara community, which is believed to have played a role in his defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Kalaburagi. In 2019, Mr. Kharge lost to Umesh Jadhav, who belongs to the Banjara community.
Mr. Jadhav defended internal reservation in the SC category, arguing that the community would get more benefits.
Almost all State governments provided at least one ministerial berth to the Banjara community. Revu Naik Belamgi was a Minister in the BJP government (2008-13), Mr. Lamani and Parameshwara Naik served as Ministers in the Siddaramaiah government (2013-19). Prabhu Chauvan was a Minister in the BJP government led by Mr. Bommai.