ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Karnataka in Election Mode

Karnataka is the only state in South India where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power. It is now battling anti-incumbency and the after-effects of its recent interventions with regard to reservations. It has moved the Muslims into the economically weaker sections and has recommended internal reservations among the Scheduled Castes. These strategies might add to confusion among the electorate.

Karnataka is in an election drive. Apart from the stakes for the presently ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there are other variables which add to this poll’s importance. Karnataka is the only state south of the Vindhyas where the BJP is in power and, in a sense, this election is seen as a pointer, not perhaps a very strong one, to the likely trajectory of the general elections due in 2024. Quite predictably, the present government has to battle the anti-incumbency factor, but its problems are accentuated by an inept handling of issues relating to the hijab and the controversy over school textbooks (both are discussed in some detail in an article titled “W(h)ither Karnataka?” EPW, 6 August 2022). Further, woes have resulted from reports of gross corruption in the award of government contracts and the settlement of bills to contractors. This is by no means new or restricted to Karnataka but the disclosures were quite electrifying. That the BJP leadership regards the Karnataka elections as being more than usually important is easily deduced from the visits made by the Prime Minister to the state and the hectic inauguration of various schemes/facilities, some of which are yet to be completed. Another sphere where the state is active is with respect to reservations.

Tinkering with reservations is all too common in most parts of the country but Karnataka ranks somewhat higher than many by virtue of its almost obsessive appointment of committees and commissions. The state has a permanent Backward Classes Commission which has been in existence since 1997. The government conducted a socio-economic census which was commissioned when the present Congress leader of the opposition was the chief minister in 2015. This, it was expected, would provide reliable data with respect to population figures of diff­erent castes. To this day, the findings have not been made public. The most likely cause is that the figures relating to the population of several castes, especially the dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga castes, do not reflect what have been touted as their accurate population estimates. Rumour has it that this has caused the report to be kept under wraps. Yet political parties as well as courts keep insisting on reliable data being produced with respect to population figures by caste. The courts in particular continue to display an innocent faith in the magical ability of surveys to produce data which represent “true social reality.” This is not the place to dwell on how exaggerated this faith is, but this is not meant as a dismissal of the importance of caste in our society and economy.

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Updated On : 8th May, 2023
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