Ahead of the high-stakes assembly polls in Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has hiked the quota for the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities but abolished the 4 per cent reservation granted to Muslims under 2B category in the OBC list and bring them under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation.
With the 4 per cent quota for Muslims under the OBC reservation being distributed equally among the two dominant communities- the Vokkaligas in 2C reservation category and Lingayats in 2D reservation category-the reservation for Vokkaligas increased from 4 per cent to 6 per cent, and for Lingayats from 5 per cent to 7 per cent.
On a visit to poll-bound Karnataka, Home Minister Amit Shah
“There was no provision in the Constitution to give quota based on religion,” pointed out Shah.
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar termed the step unconstitutional, reported news agency PTI.
Confident about the Congress party coming to power in the “next 45 days”, Shivakumar said: “We will scrap all this”, adding that there is no justification to remove Muslims from the OBC list.
During his tenure as Chief Minister of Karnataka in 1995, Janata Dal (Secular) chief Deve Gowda allotted for the first time a separate quota for Muslims, offering a 4 per cent quota in government jobs, under a separate category 2B.
Meanwhile, in a bid to woo the two dominant communities, Shah is set to unveil statues of 12th-century social reformer Basaveshwara and Bengaluru city founder ‘Nadaprabhu’ Kempegowda on the premises of the ‘Vidhana Soudha.
With Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai
Incidentally, Muslims form one of the largest communities with a 13 per cent population in Karnataka.
Analysts say that polarisation by the ruling BJP and Hindutva forces is the main reason why Muslims are not being considered for tickets to contest the upcoming assembly elections in proportion to their numbers, even by the Congress party.
Currently, the Karnataka legislature has seven Muslim MLAs and all are from the Congress party. However, this is the lowest Muslim representation in the last decade as in 2008, nine Muslim MLAs were voted to power in the state, while in 2013, 11 Muslim candidates won, with nine being from the Congress and three from the JD (S). The highest Muslim representation of 16 MLAs was in 1978 and the lowest of two MLAs was in 1983.
Political analysts also believe that Muslim voters are the key minority in Karnataka because they have significant numerical strength.
Some may back the Janata Dal-Secular because its state president, C M Ibrahim, is a veteran Muslim leader. While some may vote for the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.
But it is predicted that most Muslim voters will support the Congress as they see the grand old party as the main opposition to the BJP, which has mounted an unprecedented, humiliating effort to promote communal polarisation in order to win Hindu votes.
However, the involvement of Muslims and radical organisations of the community in the murders of Hindu activists in different parts of the state and the cooker bomb blast case has only made the situation worse for the community.
Meanwhile, on Saturday the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seized the office of now banned Popular Front of India (PFI) in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka, officials privy to the matter said on Sunday.
One of BJP’s poll planks in Karnataka banks on the ban on PFI to build a poll template of development and polarisation in Karnataka.
On the Karnataka poll trail, the BJP national president JP Nadda in February lashed out at former chief minister Siddaramaiah for withdrawing 175 cases against the Popular Front of India. As many as 600 activists of the PFI were released, said the BJP chief in his attack on the previous Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state.
The PFI, which was banned for its involvement in anti-national activities, describes itself as an organisation that fights for the rights of the marginalised, the minorities and the Scheduled Castes and has often been at loggerheads with the policies of the BJP and the Congress in the southern state.