May 3, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Congress’ 75% reservation cap promise is a wise strategy. We also look at the proposed auction of lithium blocks in J&K, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Congress’ 75% reservation cap promise: A wise strategy?
Summer is setting over the country with scant rainfall. Yet, in some states, it’s raining poll promises as election season gets underway. This isn’t anything new for Indian politics. The state in the spotlight is Karnataka as the BJP and Congress go head to head.
There’s about a week till the state goes to the polls, but Congress is pulling out all the stops. Their latest strategy is social justice, more specifically, increasing the reservation limit from 50% to 75% and increasing reservations for all castes based on their population. It’s a clear counter to the incumbent BJP scrapping the 4% reservation for Muslims. Will the party’s plan work against the BJP, or will it be a Hail Mary gone wrong?
In October last year, the Karnataka government decided to increase quotas for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) by 2% and 4%, respectively. The goal was clear – we’ve got to keep an eye on the 2023 Assembly elections.
Karnataka provides 32% reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBCs), 15% for SCs, and 3% for STs. This, more or less, adds up to 50%. The Justice HN Das Committee report stated that reservations could breach this 50% cap imposed by the Supreme Court in the 1992 Indira Sawhney case. Justice Das said the conditions of SCs and STs were poor, and only a small section of the communities have experienced upward mobility.
Post-Independence, Karnataka has been dominated by two castes – Lingayats and Vokkaligas. Barring a few occasions, they’ve taken turns ruling the state. The Lingayats have a pan-state presence, while the Vokkaligas are an old Mysore-centric caste with significant numbers in a few regions. Among the most famous Vokkaligas is Kempe Gowda, revered as the founder of Bengaluru. Vokkaligas were restricted to farming. Their education levels and political participation were minimal until Independence.
During the height of the Karnataka Ekikarana Andolana (Karnataka Unification Movement), top Vokkaligas leaders gathered to chart their future. They were all Congress leaders who participated in the freedom movement. Most weren’t keen on unifying all Kannada-speaking areas under one administration. One concern was they would lose their caste dominance which would pave the way for Lingayat hegemony.
In 1994, HD Deve Gowda became the first Vokkaliga chief minister of a united Karnataka. Two years later, he took the oath to become Prime Minister, and a regional sub-caste in Karnataka celebrated.
These two castes play a vital role in electoral outcomes in the state. The Vokkaligas form 12% – 15% of the state’s population. They decide election outcomes in about a hundred constituencies. In 2018, 42 Vokkaligas won their Assembly election contests. One of their own, HD Kumaraswamy, became the Chief Minister thanks to support from the Congress.
Given how important and influential caste groups are in the state, Congress is leaving nothing to chance. State opposition leader Siddaramaiah said the party would increase the reservation limit from 50% to 75% for all communities based on their population. Is this a risky play from the party, or is it exactly what the party needs to win the state?
VIEW: It’s a sound strategy
It’s well-established how influential caste groups are in the state. Congress wants to drive home its social justice agenda. The party’s line is that reservation isn’t just a political or electoral issue to them – it’s part of their ideology for social justice. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to scrap the 50% ceiling and release the 2011 caste census data. The strategy is clear – paint the BJP into a corner on the issue.
There’s understandable scepticism on how the party would raise the 50% ceiling. The Socio-Economic Survey, or caste census, conducted in 2015 covered around 1.3 crore households in the state. While the results were never released, leaked information shows Lingayats and Vokkaligas aren’t numerically dominant as previously believed. Several states have second thoughts about the ceiling since the Supreme Court’s observation on the 50% cap isn’t sacrosanct.
Some pre-poll surveys are promising for the Congress. An Eedina survey found massive anti-incumbency in the state. 67% of voters said the Basavaraj Bommai government shouldn’t be given another chance. The survey showed the BJP only had upper caste Brahmins and Vaisyas in their corner. Lingayats were the other community in favour of the BJP. SCs, STs, Muslims, and Vokkaligas have a largely negative opinion of the BJP government.
COUNTERVIEW: Unlikely to pan out
The Karnataka Assembly election is more about the rich-poor divide than anything else. There’s a lot of media attention on the Muslim quota and the Lingayat anger against the BJP, but this isn’t the fray where the election will be fought. The focus on communal polarisation and caste is missing the deep-running class divide.
If the focus is on caste, then the BJP feels confident. The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar is a Vokkaliga, and the campaign committee chairman MB Patil is a Lingayat. Both communities are wary of Siddaramaiah. His brazenness on caste issues hasn’t won him any favours. Unless Congress secures at least 30% of the votes from each community, it won’t come to power.
The Congress’ promise of increasing the 50% reservation cap sounds nice on paper. The BJP has questioned how this will be done in practice. Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje hit back at Siddaramaiah’s promise by declaring it incongruous with the Supreme Court’s ruling. There’s also no caste data available to work with. While poll surveys show Congress in a prime position, securing 120 seats, as Siddaramaiah projected, will be a tall order. The BJP isn’t putting much stock in these surveys and is confident of victory.
- Karnataka government to hike SC & ST reservation, breach 50% cap – Times of India
- Govt must revamp reservation policy: Justice Nagmohan Das – Deccan Herald
- Karnataka: A Caste at Crossroads, Will Vokkaligas Continue Backing Gowda Clan? A Look at Their History – News18
- Siddaramaiah creates flutter with 75% reservation assurance – Deccan Herald
- It’s raining quota promises in Karnataka: Congress meets BJP’s SC-ST-Lingayat-Vokkaliga outreach by lifting quota cap to 75% – Moneycontrol
- Karnataka: Survey Says a Massive Anti-Incumbency Wave Threatens To Overturn BJP’s Boat – The Wire
- Class matters in Karnataka – Eedina’s pre-poll survey on voting patterns shows – The Print
- Karnataka Elections: Congress Is Ahead, But Is it in a Safe Zone? – The Wire
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The 75% reservation promise is a good strategy by Congress.
b) The 75% reservation promise is a bad strategy by Congress.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Wrestlers’ protest shines a light on the toxicity of guru-shishya relations
For the Left:
Why Nitish Kumar leading the charge against Narendra Modi exposes the political bankruptcy of the Opposition camp
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Lithium to be auctioned (Jammu and Kashmir) – Mining secretary Vivek Bharadwaj indicated on May 2nd that India expects to sell the lithium blocks in the northern federal region of Jammu and Kashmir by the end of 2023. Lithium is a key resource that was previously unavailable in India, leaving us completely reliant on imports. Earlier this month, the Union Government announced that for the first time in the country, 5.9 million tonnes of lithium deposits had been discovered in Jammu and Kashmir.
Why it matters: Lithium is a non-ferrous metal that is an important component in electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Because lithium is a highly reactive metal, it can store a lot of energy. Lithium batteries also have a longer charge retention time and can endure hundreds of recharge cycles. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently stated that if India can harness the freshly discovered lithium deposit in Jammu and Kashmir, it may become the world’s leading automotive producer in the electric vehicle market. EVs are currently seeing a global push and are in high demand. However, India doesn’t have any units to manufacture lithium batteries.
Kids facing malnutrition and anaemia: Report (Andhra Pradesh) – During the Covid-19 pandemic, the growth and development of kids in the state of Andhra Pradesh have deteriorated. According to a survey done by the Palnadu district government, approximately 14,364 kids had poor development, and 4,271 had stunted development. Officials from the ICDS launched a ground-level survey to determine the number of kids and their developmental stages in 2,031 Anganwadi facilities. Over 7,322 girls under the age of 15 were found to be anaemic owing to the lack of a well-balanced diet.
Why it matters: Anaemia is caused by the deficiency of iron in the diet, which results in weakness due to lower haemoglobin activity in the body. During Covid, the healthy meals supplied by Anganwadis and mid-day meals at schools to children and pregnant women suffered a setback. The decline in family incomes also contributed to poor growth and development. CM Jagan Mohan Reddy recently stated to the media that his administration had improved the nutritional health of kids in Andhra via their midday meals. The report, however, shows that a lot of corners still need filling.
SC stays order dealing with quota limit (Chhattisgarh) – On Monday, the Supreme Court delayed a Chhattisgarh High Court judgment that declared the state government’s proposal to provide 58% reservation as unconstitutional. The Chhattisgarh government raised the quota for government positions and places in state-funded educational institutions from 50% to 58% in 2011. The Scheduled Castes received a 12% quota, the Scheduled Tribes 32%, and the Other Backward Classes 14% reservation under the new law. However, the Chhattisgarh High Court overturned the decision to raise the quota in September, stating that no special case had been made out for exceeding the reservation ceiling of 50%.
Why it matters: On Monday, a Supreme Court bench composed of Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath, and Sanjay Karol heard two petitions challenging the Chhattisgarh High Court’s decision to overturn the increased reservation ceiling. According to Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represents the Chhattisgarh government, the High Court ruling has interfered with state recruitments. As an interim order, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court’s decision. However, the court ordered the Chhattisgarh government to issue instructions that all future recruitments in the state would be subject to a final verdict on the matter. The matter will be heard again in July.
MVA secure majority in APMC polls (Maharashtra) – For the first time, all 255 agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) in Maharashtra held elections at the same time. While Covid-19 had delayed elections in some of them, others, such as Pune, had not seen polls in 20 years. The three parties of the shaky Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance won the majority of the 255 APMCs that were elected in Maharashtra on April 28.
Why it matters: While the MVA parties won in the majority of the mandis, there were a few exceptions, with the NCP and BJP working together to keep out the Congress, and the Congress and BJP working together to win against the NCP in some places. APMCs are cooperative organisations that regulate agricultural produce commerce in their region of operation and wield considerable power in Maharashtra’s rural communities. According to a former Maharashtra director of marketing, being an APMC director is second only to being a local MLA in terms of prestige.
Assam Police open YouTube channel (Assam) – To improve police-public collaboration, the Assam police department has opened an official YouTube account. The Assam Police Channel, which was launched by state DGP GP Singh from the police headquarters on Sunday evening, had over 15,000 subscribers by Monday afternoon. Singh stated that the Assam police already have social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and that with the introduction of the YouTube channel, they now have another way to communicate with the public.
Why it matters: The DGP stated that the YouTube channel and the many cultural efforts undertaken by the Assam police, like the debut of the folk orchestra, will help promote relationships between communities and help people “understand” the operation of the police force better. A YouTube channel also ensures that people actually follow the content created by the police, as opposed to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, where people try to follow as few accounts as possible to maintain their “online social status”.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
47.84 – The average days of employment provided per household under MGNREGS came down to 47.84 days during 2022-23 from 50.07 days in 2021-22.