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Karnataka BJP Announces Ace In SC/STs Reservations On Even Of Valmiki Jayanti

On Sunday, October 9, an advertisement released by the BJP government in the state announced a “historic decision by the government of Karnataka,” which was splashed across the front pages of the state’s main newspapers.

The BJP government in Karnataka pulled a political stunt on the eve of Valmiki Jayanti, which falls on October 9 and commemorates the birth anniversary of Maharishi Valmiki, a revered member of the Scheduled Tribe Valmiki Nayak community. At a Cabinet meeting on October 8, it was decided to implement the SC/ST quota increase recommendations made by the Justice Nagamohan Das panel, which had been established in 2018 under the Congress-JDS partnership.

The state Cabinet unanimously decided to increase the percentage of reservations for STs and SCs, respectively, from 3% to 17% and 7%, respectively. Bommai stated following the conference.

The decision to follow the panel’s 18-month-old recommendations is seen as the BJP’s attempt to hold onto the Valmiki Nayak community’s support in the face of Congress efforts to win them over.

The Valmiki Nayaks are the largest of the roughly 52 tribes in the state, and they have largely supported the BJP. In actuality, the BJP’s B S Yediyurappa was the chief minister who originally proclaimed Valmiki Jayanti a public holiday in 2011. A long-standing demand of the community, greater quotas, were guaranteed by BJP minister B Sreeramulu in 2019 if the party won power.

A significant portion of the SC community, known as the SC (left) group, is thought to support the BJP, mostly because the SC (right) section of Dalits, which is more prominent, has generally aligned with the Congress thanks to powerful leaders from the community like Mallikarjun Kharge.

The Bommai government’s decision to raise SC/ST quotas comes amid Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is now travelling across Karnataka and is slated to pass through tribal and SC-dominated districts of the state this week, including Chitradurga, Ballari, and Raichur.

The BJP has made a political choice here. They have been having sleepless nights because of the Justice Nagamohan Das commission findings. They have abruptly awakened. This is the result of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the price increase, and the BJP’s alleged involvement in corruption. They have suddenly gotten involved in this matter, according to V S Ugrappa, a former Congressman and member of the Valmiki Nayak neighbourhood.

With the state elections in 2023 only eight months away, the Opposition, which consists primarily of the Congress and JDS, has largely been silent.

“There will undoubtedly be an effect. Nothing was done, even after they had been in charge for a year. They made this choice under the revised circumstances, a senior Congress leader stated. A portion of the Congress believes that the BJP has profited off of “an issue that the Congress party lacked the guts to carry out.” A Congress leader admitted, “It was a mistake by our party.”

Politicians are concerned that the BJP’s decision may “boomerang” if serious efforts are not made to ensure that it will withstand legal scrutiny and that demands from other communities, like the Panchamasali Lingayats, who want to be included in the OBC category to receive higher reservations, will not be treated similarly.

The Supreme Court’s 50% quota ceiling is the immediate legal barrier to the increase. The Karnataka government may ask for a constitutional amendment to place the quota provisions in the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule, where they would be immune from judicial review, similar to what Tamil Nadu did to raise the quota to 69%. To do this, the BJP-led federal government would need to seek for a constitutional amendment.

According to paragraph 810 of the Indira Sawhney Supreme Court case, which stated that only under exceptional circumstances, on the basis of data, can reservation be increased from an upper limit of 50%, Ugrappa said, “They have to bring a Bill wherein they have to assign reasons and make provisions.”

The Bommai administration has stated that, for the time being, it will issue an executive order to increase the SC-ST quotas in the government and that it will later decide whether to propose a constitutional amendment to raise the quota maximum.

Numerous requests have been made for the inclusion of several groups in the ST and backward classes categories. Law Minister J. C. Madhuswamy stated, “We will consider all concerns and resolve the quota ceiling issue. The Central government has also breached the 50% limit following its 10% EWS reservation.

The Justice Subhash Adi committee was established by the current BJP government in July 2021 to make further decisions regarding quotas and to investigate the requests for reservations made by various communities, including the Panchamasali Lingayats, a significant segment of the dominant Lingayat community that backs the BJP. Ahead of the state elections in 2023, additional decisions regarding increasing quotas for certain caste groups may be in the works.

The government, according to Madhuswamy, was considering “the aspirations of all communities for greater quotas.” “We have decided to increase the SC/ST quota, which is one of the urgent challenges. All parties, including our party, pledged to improve reservations to reflect these communities’ populations. For the time being, we are limited to this,” the BJP minister stated.

The government was not “pressing other communities,” he continued, and “quota problems would not be considered in the absence of a proper scientific assessment.” “There are three to four reports that are on the table for the SC/ST communities. Our execution has been sluggish, according to Madhuswamy.

“We are not going to touch the current quota,” he continued, “but we are going to raise the reservations above 50%. We won’t change the OBC quotas, even if it might have some impact on the general category. In addition, Bommai stated that “decisions about internal reservation among the SCs/STs will be determined in proper consultation with experts and leaders of all parties in the coming days.”

Congress lawmakers initially brought up the idea of increasing SC and ST quotas in the state in 2015, during Siddaramaiah’s term as CM, citing an increase in population in the communities after the 2011 Census.

The Kantharaju panel performed a caste survey at the time, however in light of the 2018 state elections, the Congress government rejected its recommendations.

Congress lawmakers were successful in pushing for the establishment of the Justice Nagamohan Das commission while the JDS-Congress combination was in office between 2018 and 2019. When the coalition government fell, the commission delivered its first report. Yediyurappa was in charge of the BJP when it won the election in July 2019.

The group recommended seven changes, including raising the percentage of reservations for SCs and STs who want legal protection from 15% to 17% and 3% to 7%, respectively, to get around the Supreme Court’s 50% cap.

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