The growing demand by the Panchamasali Lingayat seers and their supporters for an improved reservation status, has put chief minister B S Yediyurappa and his government on the back foot.
More so, as the move is seen as a determined attempt to isolate BSY, politically, considering that he is recognised as the undisputed leader of the Lingayat community.
This is evident from the threat issued by the Panchamasali seers and their supporters to go on a hunger strike from 4 March, if their demands are not met, to quote supporters of the chief minister. Making matters worse for Yediyurappa is the fact that his critic and BJP MLA, Basvangouda Patil Yatnal, is one of the prime movers of the movement, giving the much-needed support to the seers concerned. He is also seen as a rising force in his community now.
The Panchamasalis want the government to fix a timeline for granting them benefits under the “More Backward” classification of category 2 A reservation. In other words ,this would provide 15 per cent reservation in educational institutions and, of course, government jobs, against the 3B classification of “Backward” that they come under now.
The Panchamasalis, who also held a rally in Bengaluru in February to press their demand, form a sizeable proportion of the over 1.2 crore Lingayat community in general, with several sects, in Karnataka.
Pressure is mounting on Yediyurappa as eight other politically powerful communities, including the Vokkaliggas, Kurubas and the Idigas, are seeking an increase in reservation quota. Several OBCs have come out against the demand by Panchamasali Lingayats and the Kurubas, for example. They are arguing that any attempt to accommodate the interests of these influential sections, at the cost of the poorer and backward castes, would not be tolerated.
The immediate concern facing the government, though, is to pacify the adamant seers and their supporters from the Panchamasali Lingayat sect . All attempts to approach them with promises so far, have failed. The aggrieved party’s argument is simple.
It wants the government to pay back, arguing that Yediyurappa had used the Panchamsalis as a vote bank without, however, doing anything for the community. For years! If anything, only a few members of the community have been rewarded with ministership in his cabinet, is the common refrain.
According to Swami Basava Jaya Mrutyanjaya, the sect waited for over two decades. The time has come now for Yediyurappa to accept the community’s demand. There is no going back on our fight to achieve the 2A status, he added.
The government, of course, is trying desperately to win over the determined seers and leaders of this community. While , till the time of writing, all its attempts to influence the protesters have failed, plans are afoot to form a panel to douse the quota fire. It is now considering the possibility of forming a committee under a retired HC judge to study the demands of the various communities for a higher percentage of reservation,official sources said.
This,however, has not stopped a few ministers of the Yediyurappa government from asserting that the agitation has been promoted by the Congress .
The allegation by some of the Panchamasali Lingayat ministers like Murugesh Nirani and C C Patil, has only queered the pitch for the BJP government with the angry seers and their supporters , predictably, taking offence.