Congress President Mallikarjun M. Kharge’s public outburst against Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar reveals the party’s weaknesses on the divisive caste census issue. Shivakumar, the president of the state Congress, has signed a petition against caste censuses, despite the Congress party’s national and Karnataka positions advocating for them.
When Kharge was prodded in the Rajya Sabha by BJP member Sushil Kumar Modi over the internal dispute within the Congress, he responded, “All upper caste people are united on this. Shivakumar is also opposing it, BJP is also opposing it. Both are one on this issue. Upper caste people will be united internally.”
Karnataka’s Caste Census Report
Though Karnataka was the first state to hold a caste census in the country during Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s earlier term between 2013 and 2018, Bihar was the first to release the report of the survey it had conducted. Bihar’s census data showed that while upper castes comprised only 15 percent, the “marginalised” classes made up 85 percent of the population.
While the Karnataka report was never made public, the data which was leaked in 2018 indicated that Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes constituted a majority of the population. Ever since the formation of the state in 1956, Vokkaligas and Lingayats had assumed political superiority by the virtue of their assumed numerical dominance which was not based on any empirical data.