Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah to Accept Results of 2015 Caste Census

Some of the supposed results of the caste census, leaked in 2018, indicated that the state's dominant communities like Lingayats and Vokkaligas may not be as numerous as they claim.

New Delhi: In an indication of the Congress party’s commitment to a demand for a nationwide caste census, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has decided to accept the results of a caste-wise socio-economic survey of the state commissioned by the backward classes commission in 2015.

The report is popularly known as the ‘caste census’ and was compiled in 2018, during the end of Siddaramaiah’s first tenure as chief minister starting in 2013.

Announcing the decision on Twitter on Wednesday, June 7, Siddaramaiah said that accepting the caste-wise social and educational survey report conducted by the Permanent Commission for Backward Classes “will facilitate various communities”.

“We will remove the confusion created by the BJP government in reservation. Otherwise, no one can provide social justice. A caste-wise survey will provide the data required to take appropriate decisions on aspects such as facilities to be provided to the people, priority measures etc. Scientific and accurate information is essential for providing reservation and other facilities. A caste wise survey was conducted for this purpose. We will now receive the report and take appropriate action based on the data contained therein,” he tweeted.

Karnataka’s caste census has been controversial in the past. Parts of its results were supposedly leaked in 2018 and indicated that the state’s dominant communities made exaggerated claims about their population.

The leak “suggested [that Scheduled Castes] constitute the largest community in Karnataka with 19% representation, followed by Muslims at 16%”, a Times of India report said.

“The report pegged Lingayats at 14% and Vokkaligas at 11% of the state’s population – way lower than what is commonly perceived,” it continued to say.

Lingayats and Vokkaligas are caste clusters that have traditionally dominated village society in Karnataka thanks to their land holdings.

The report was commissioned in 2015 and was expected to be released in the assembly towards the end of Siddaramaiah’s first term as CM between 2013 and 2018. But it was delayed, apparently due to the grand old party fearing a backlash in the 2018 assembly polls.

The Congress-led UPA government had also conducted a nationwide Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in 2011-12 but never released its data.

But over the past few months, top Congress leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi have revived the idea. They have demanded that the Union government should conduct a nationwide caste census to determine the demography of different classes to enable “social justice and empowerment programmes”.

Also Read: Congress’s Push for Caste Census Is a Step Towards Ideological Unity in Opposition Ranks

The Nitish Kumar government had launched a caste census in Bihar in January this year but it was stayed by the Patna high court in May.

The Congress’s support for a caste census is seen as an attempt to create ideological common ground in its efforts to unite all “like-minded” parties to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Analysts have said that the BJP is against the idea of a caste census as it feels such an exercise would undermine its Hindu nationalist project to unite the Hindu vote.