Reject BJP’s divisive caste and communal politics in Karnataka

In a statement issued on March 25th, Clifton D' Rozario, Karnataka state secretary of CPIML has raised serious concerns regarding the decisions of the last cabinet meeting of the outgoing Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government on March 24th. The decisions have progressed very much in line with the communal and caste politics that has come to define the BJP reign in Karnataka. Notable are the two decisions made, and the one decision not made.

Toxic mix of communalism and casteism:

The first decision taken, in what can be seen only as a toxic mix of communalism and casteism, is to increase reservation quota for the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities at the cost of the Muslim community. The altered reservation matrix has brought the two dominant communities—Vokkaliga and Panchamasalis— under two new categories of 2C and 2D and increasing reservation from 4% to 6% and 5% to 7% respectively. The BJP government has taken the stand that the Muslims in 2B category can now avail of EWS reservation. 

The unilateral manner in which the Muslim community under 2B has been pulled out of the reservation quote is unacceptable. It puts the community at a serious disadvantage since the exclusive reservation under 2B is now removed and, under EWS, they would have to compete with stronger communities like Brahman, Vyasas, Jain, etc. What is worse is the attempt to a major deception by the Chief Minister to justify this decision by invoking Dr B. R. Ambedkar. This is another attempt by the BJP to impose its divisive agenda on society and create schisms on the basis of caste and communalism. This decision is an outcome of the vicious assertion of fundamentalist caste politics and consequence of an aggressive collaboration between religious and political leaders in weaponizing caste politics.

The social and economic status of majority of Muslims in Karnataka, is dismal, owing to which Karnataka was one of the first states to bring Muslims under reservations. This reservation ensured some representation for the Muslims and withdrawing it could result in denying Muslims representation. The BJP seeks to undo this legacy by scrapping Muslim reservation quota. This has to be fought tooth and nail until Muslim reservation quota is restored.

Internal reservations:

Another decision made by the BJP government is to recommended a 6% internal quota for SC (Left), 5.5% for SC (Right), 4.5% for touchables (Banjara, Bhovi, Korcha, Kuruma etc) and 1% for others. The recommendation will be sent to the Union government. Organisations who have fought for the past 30 years for internal reservations have called this a BJP gimmick. All that the cabinet has decided is to send a proposal to the Union government, whereas BJP is trying to mislead Dalits into believing that internal reservations will now be implemented. In fact, this is very much like the decision to increase reservations for SCs from 15% to 17% and for STs from 3% to 7%, which cannot be implemented since this would cross the 50% ceiling. Curiously, the BJP is silent on the long-standing demand of making the report of the Justice A. J. Sadashiva Commission public.

Lost is this din is the fact that the Caste Census report of the Karnataka Permanent Backward Classes Commission has still not made public. Leaked data of this report, reveals that Scheduled Castes (SCs) are 19.5% of the total population in the state, Muslims are 16% while Lingayats and Vokkaligas make up 14% and 11% of the population, respectively. Among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the Kurubas alone account for 7% of the state’s population. Overall, the OBCs make up 20% of Karnataka’s population. This report is essential in proper apportionment of reservation quota.

Betrayal by the BJP:

One would recall the militant strike in July 2022 of Powrakarmikas engaged in garbage removal in towns and cities across Karnataka. The Chief Minister, Basavaraj Bommai, held a meeting with the Unions and promised that all garbage vehicle drivers and loaders would be freed from the oppressive contract system and brought under direct payment system. However, this was not implemented, compelling workers to strike work across the State from 20th March onwards. Also on strike were the other contract/outsource workers in municipalities including water men, UGD workers, data entry operators etc. Importantly majority of the workers belong to Dalit and other marginalised communities. Several rounds of discussions were held with officials and the assurance made was that the Cabinet will take a positive decision in this regard. However, in what is a bitter betrayal, the State government, succumbing to the contractor lobby, has ignored this subject altogether and no decisions was taken by the cabinet. This betrayal will not be tolerated likely and the workers have resolved to intensify their struggle in the coming days and deal a decisive blow to the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections.

The anti-worker stance of the BJP was also evident in the recent amendments to the Factories Act increasing the daily working day to 12 hours), allowing women workers to work night shifts and increasing the permissible overtime hours from 75 hours to 140 hours per quarter. All central Trade Unions have come out against this amendment and a state-wide strike was held on 23rd March 2023 demanding for the scrapping of this amendment. The failure of the BJP government to heed to these demands reflects its alignment with corporate houses even if it means sheer exploitation of workers.

Social justice has no meaning for this government, only divisive caste and communal politics and pro-corporate policies. We call upon the people of Karnataka to reject the communal/caste agenda of the BJP, recognise its anti-worker and anti-people character, and deal a decisive defeat to the BJP in the Assembly elections.