Karnataka CM hints at accepting 'caste census' report amid deep divisions in ruling Congress

Karnataka CM hints at accepting 'caste census' report amid deep divisions in ruling Congress

Bengaluru, Nov 21 (PTI) Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday said his decision to do justice to the disadvantaged communities, by accepting the report of the Socio-Economic and Education Survey, popularly known as the 'caste census', is unwavering.

His statement is seen as significant as the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes chairperson is expected to submit the report to the state government this month.

'I fully agree with our proud leader Rahul Gandhi's stand. I feel that the country's independence will be meaningful only when the caste census is conducted across the country and based on its report, 'equal share for all - equal rights for all' is ensured,' Siddaramaiah posted on 'X'.

'My decision to do justice to the disadvantaged communities, by accepting the report of the Economic, Social and Educational Survey conducted by our previous government, is unwavering,' he said while commenting on Gandhi's statement regarding conducting caste census at the national level if the Congress forms the government at the Centre.

Raising the caste census pitch, describing it as an ‘X-ray’ of the country, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday, while addressing an election rally in Udaipur, said the Congress will conduct caste census in Rajasthan if it comes to power and also do so at the national level if it's voted to office at the Centre.

With pressure mounting on his government, from a certain section, to make public the state's socio-economic and educational survey, following Bihar government releasing findings of its caste survey recently, Siddaramaiah had so far been maintaining that a decision will be taken once he receives the report -- which is expected later this month.

The then Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in 2015 had commissioned the social-economic and educational survey, at an estimated cost of Rs 170 crore in the state, the findings of which have not been made public yet.

The state Backward Classes Commission under its then chairperson H Kantharaj was tasked with preparing a caste census report.

However, with strong disapproval from two dominant communities -- Lingayats and Vokkaligas -- the survey report may turn out to be a political hot potato for the government, as it may set the stage for a confrontation, with Dalits and OBCs among others demanding for it to be made public.

Lingayats, led by All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, which is the apex body of Veerashaiva-Lingayats, have expressed disapproval about the survey calling it unscientific, and demanded conduct of a fresh survey; while Vokkaliga leaders at a meeting, which was also attended by Deputy CM D K Shivakumar and prominent seers from the community recently, passed a resolution urging the government to 'reject' the caste census.

On the other hand, federations representing Dalits, tribals and other backward classes (OBC) have demanded that the findings of a caste census, kept under wraps, be made public.

Accusing both the dominant communities of trying to block the caste census from coming out, leaders of the Karnataka State Backward Castes Federation and the Karnataka Marginalised Communities Federation have threatened to hold agitations.

On his part, K Jayaprakash Hegde, the current chairperson of Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes, has already said he would submit the caste census report to the state government in November.

According to some analysts, successive governments have been shying away from releasing it as the findings of the survey are allegedly contrary to the 'traditional perception' of the numerical strength of various castes in Karnataka, especially the dominant Lingayats and Vokkaligas, making it a political hot potato.

Political parties in the state have indulged in a blame game for not accepting the survey and not making it public.

Officials have also cited the then member-secretary of the State Commission for Backward Classes not signing the final report, as the technical hurdle that has hindered the release of the report earlier.

They said the caste census report is currently with the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes, and once it submits it, the cabinet would take a call. PTI KSU RS KSU SS

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