After Bihar, Kar-Nataka on Release of Caste Census Findings: Cautious Cong Govt Weighs Options – News18

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Moments after the Bihar Government released the caste census findings, leaders from the ruling Congress party in Karnataka have also demanded that findings of the seven-year-old Karnataka caste census (named socio-economic study of castes/religion) be made public immediately.

B K Hariprasad, a senior Congress leader who is now disgruntled, posted a comment on microblogging site X (formerly Twitter), urging the Siddaramaiah government to make the findings public. His tone and tenor suggest it is imperative for the Congress government to release the sensitive data, which might change Karnataka’s socio-political landscape permanently.

Hariprasad posted: “Bihar which is governed by INDIA alliance has released its caste census. Rahul Gandhi Ji has spoken passionately about ensuring justice for the backward classes. It is now imperative for Karnataka to forthwith release the caste census conducted in 2017.”

Karnataka is now bracing for a caste census, which could potentially change its socio-political landscape permanently and turn state politics on its head.

The census, named Socio-Economic Survey, was held during Siddaramaiah’s previous term (2013-18) and its findings are in the “safe custody” of the government. Several groups had opposed the caste census, claiming the state government had no right to conduct such an exercise, following which it was renamed.


The government is hesitant to make the findings public, calling it a “state secret”. After his defeat in the 2018 Assembly elections, Siddaramaiah’s successors – HD Kumaraswamy, BS Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai – had flatly refused to release the caste census data.

The demand for the release has now pitted the OBC, SC/ST and minority leaders of the Congress against upper caste leaders of their own party. The powerful Lingayat and Vokkaliga MLAs, ministers and other leaders of the Congress are opposing the release fearing it might reduce their bargaining power, if the findings are not to their advantage.

The AHINDA (minorities, OBCs, SC/STs), which Siddaramaiah leads, are favouring the immediate tabling of the caste census data, arguing it will set many historical injustices right. They claim that their numbers are much more, and the census data will empower them socially, politically and economically.

Personally, Siddaramaiah is in favour of releasing the data, but political compulsions are not allowing him to take that decisive step. The upper caste leaders of the party fear that any such move might consolidate Lingayat and Vokkaliga votes completely in favour of BJP-JDS alliance and might lead to AHINDA versus upper castes fight in the state.

Reacting to this, Home Minister and Dalit leader Dr G Parameshwara gave an evasive reply, pushing the ball in Siddaramaiah’s court. He said: “My opinion does not count here. CM Siddaramaiah will consult everyone and will take a decision soon.”


In March 2018, News18 had accessed the leaked main findings of the survey and they have the potential to end the political hegemony of the two dominant upper castes in the state — Lingayats and Vokkaligas.

Since Independence, these two major castes have been controlling the levers of power, claiming to be the ‘top communities’ in the state. The two castes have always accounted for 50% of the MP and MLA seats from the state, irrespective of the party in power. The Lingayats even want to be recognised as a separate religion, a demand backed by the previous Siddaramaiah government.

According to the census data seen by News18, Dalits and Muslims outnumber Lingayats and Vokkaligas. The Scheduled Castes (SCs) account for 19.5% of the total population in the state, making it the single-largest caste entity. Muslims come next, making up about 16% of the population. These two groups are followed by the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, who make up 14% and 11% of the population, respectively.

Among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the Kurubas alone account for 7% of the state’s population. Overall, the OBCs make up 20% of Karnataka’s population.

As per the data, SCs, STs, Muslims and Kurubas together form 62% of the total population, making it the strongest combination. Siddaramaiah’s AHINDA group would be the most formidable one in the state, forcing Lingayats and Vokkaligas to play second fiddle to them.

ALSO READ | ​BJP, Congress on ‘Caste’ Track: How Lingayats Can Make or Break Government in Karnataka

Alarmed by the findings, both the castes have joined hands to dismiss the findings as “fabricated to suit the political interests”.

Speaking to News18, national secretary of Veerashaiva-Lingayat Mahasabha HM Renuka Prasanna said there is “no way” they could accept the findings of the ‘caste census’. “According to Justice Chinnappa Reddy Commission, our population was 69 lakh in 1980s. We formed 16.92% of the total population. The Havanur Commission claims it was 17.23%. How can our population be just 14% after 30 years? If our population has decreased, then the state’s total population should also have decreased proportionately. But that is not the case. We have conducted our own caste census and our population stands at 1.20 crore. We make up around 20% of the total population,” he said.

He alleged that enumerators have not conducted the census in a fair and scientific manner. He said that Lingayat caste will support a new caste census if it is done in a fair and scientific way. He has also said that Lingayat and Veerashaiva caste leaders are planning to hold a joint meeting to oppose the current census and demand a fresh one.

The Vokkaligas are of the same opinion. A senior Vokkaliga minister in the government told News18 that the community accounts for 16% of the population, not 11%. Deputy chief minister and KPCC president D K Shivakumar himself a Vokkaliga is not in favour of releasing the data.

A Vokkaliga bureaucrat said that if the findings are true, it can end Lingayat and Vokkaliga hegemony in the state. “It is alarming. If it is true, SC, STs, Muslims and Kurubas will decide the fate of Karnataka. Our 70-year hold over the state will be weakened,” he said.


CM Siddaramaiah has refused to confirm the findings, saying nobody has the exact caste figures and that these were “just rumours”. “I can’t comment on this. Who has made it public? No one has released it. It is all pure speculation,” he has told the same many times in the past seven years.

The state’s Congress government is in a dilemma on whether to release the data. Some argue that if they make the details public, the Vokkaligas and Lingayats may join hands to take on the government, and it may even lead to socio-political unrest.

Secondly, the BJP might make the growth in Muslim population an election issue during upcoming Parliament and local bodies elections.

According to the ‘caste census’ data leaked by some, Dalits form 19.5% of the state’s population, tribals 5%, Muslims 16%, Kurubas 7%, rest of the OBCs 16%, Lingayats 14%, Vokkaligas 11%, Brahmins 3%, Christians 3%, Buddhists and Jains together 2%, and the others account for 4%. And the Karnataka Government is flatly refusing to confirm these figures dismissing these “leaked” data as imagined.

Karnataka’s total population is around 6.41 crore. Of them, about 5.21 crore are registered voters.

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