Pressure is increasing on the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka to not accept the caste survey report prepared during the last time Siddaramaiah was in power. A letter by the influential caste-based association, Rajya Vokkaligara Sangha, has demanded that the state government not accept the report. Karnataka’s senior most leaders from the Vokkaliga community have signed on the letter. Former Prime Minister HD Devegowda, former Union Minister SM Krishna, former Chief Ministers HD Kumaraswamy and DV Sadananda Gowda are some of the signatories. But most significantly, the sitting Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar has also endorsed it along with many Congress MLAs.
The letter by the Vokkaligara Sangha was submitted to CM Siddaramaiah on November 21 by a delegation of office bearers from the association. The letter alleges that the method and form of the survey conducted is incomplete and unscientific and thus it should not be accepted and a fresh survey should be conducted. It also alleges that the state government has no jurisdiction to conduct the caste survey, thus this report becomes illegal.
The 17-page letter, which TNM has accessed, lists a number of reasons why the association perceives the caste survey was conducted in an unscientific method. In 2014-15, the then Congress government had ordered a Social and Educational Survey, otherwise called the caste survey, by the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission under the then Chairperson H Kantharaj.
The government had said that the survey was being conducted to enable the state government to decide reservations and quotas in the OBC category as per the 127th Constitution Amendment Bill. But the findings were not submitted to the government and after that, consecutive governments led by CMs Kumaraswamy, Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai have not published the report. Ahead of the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections, the Congress had said that if it comes to power, it will publish the report.
Meanwhile, a leaked portion of the report that was featured in the media suggested that the survey found that the Vokkaliga population in the state is around 9%. It is otherwise believed that Vokkaligas make up around 15% of the population in Karnataka.
The Rajya Vokkaligara Sangha has alleged that the surveyors did not even visit all the houses. “The survey is incomplete because the report says that they have visited 5.4 crore people across Karnataka. According to Aadhar numbers available, there are 6.9 crore people in the state, so the report evidently is not complete. If the government accepts this report, it will be injustice to the Vokkaliga community,” the letter reads.
“Those doing the survey have not visited all the houses but have instead fabricated details and numbers,” it further alleges.
In the letter, the association members say that the data collected is from the year 2014-15 and due to the changes in the society since then, this data is not reliable. So a fresh survey should be conducted now.
The letter also alleges that conducting a caste census is not a state subject as it is in the central list. “So the state government has no right to conduct the census so this is illegal,” it adds.
Further listing the reasons why the association deems the survey unscientific, it says that according to reports, the committee has used school students to conduct the survey, by paying children Rs 5 to 10 to get the forms filled.
The Rajya Vokkaligara Sangha is a powerful caste-based association, more than 110 years old and runs influential educational institutes including Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) and Bangalore Institute of Technology (BIT). The association has a strong presence in at least 11 districts in Karnataka and has around seven lakh registered members. The community enjoys the patronage of several Vokkaliga Mutts across the state and is believed to also hold the sway to influence voters especially in districts like Mandya, Mysuru, Tumkuru, Ramanagara, Hassan, Chikkabalapura, Chamarajanagar, Bengaluru Rural and parts of Bengaluru Urban.
The letter has been signed by many seers of Vokkaliga mutts including Nirmalanandanatha Swamy, Nanjavadhoota Swamy and Hanumanthnath Swamy.
In political circles, the letter has been signed by Vokkaliga leaders from across party lines including Congress leaders led by Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, his brother and MP DK Suresh, Agriculture minister N Chaluvaraya Swamy, Sharath Bachchegowda. BJP leaders like Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje, Former Union Minister SM Krishna, Former Dy CM Ashwath Narayan, Former CM DV Sadananda Gowda and the Leader of Opposition R Ashoka. In JDS, HD Devegowda, HD Kumaraswamy, former minister HD Revanna and GT Devegowda and MP Prajwal Revanna have endorsed the letter.
DK Shivakumar backing the demand to not accept the report has further increased the animosity between the two warring camps–supporters of Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar. Sources say that DK Shivakumar, under immense pressure from his own community, urged Siddaramaiah to not accept the letter. The CM has reportedly refused the demand, saying that trashing the findings of a survey that the Congress government had ordered makes for bad optics, with repercussions across the country. According to sources in CMO, Siddaramaiah has assured the Vokkaliga leaders including Shivakumar that if there are apprehensions over the methodology of the survey, then after accepting the report, a judicial inquiry can be ordered to see if there are any glaring lapses committed.