Karnataka will witness a shutdown on Saturday called by several pro-Kannada organisations to protest the state government’s move to set up a development board for the Maratha community. These organisations had said on Friday that they will go ahead with the bandh demanding that the government give up its decision to form the Maratha Development Authority (MDA).
Vatal Nagaraj, who is leading the agitation, said the agitation is for Kannada pride and alleged that the government threatened various organisations using police to withdraw support to the Karnataka bandh but it will not work. “I want to tell Yediyurappa — You withdraw the ‘Authority’ (MDA), I will garland you at the Vidhana Soudha. But don’t threaten us. We will not get scared of it,” Nagaraj said, according to PTI.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. These pro-Kannada organisations are up in arms against the formation of the Maratha Development Authority, which the chief minister BS Yediyurappa had announced on November 14 and earmarked Rs 50 crore for the ‘overall development of Maratha people’.
2. Various factions of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (Forum for the Protection of Karnataka), Jaya Karnataka, Karnataka Nava Nirmaana Sena, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Hasiru Sena, Ola and Uber taxi drivers’ association, auto-rickshaw drivers association and a few others have called for the 12-hour strike.
3. The shutdown is scheduled from 6am to 6pm, however, essential services have been exempted.
4. The state government has indicated that bus and train services would run as per the normal schedule. Metro services will operate as usual in Bengaluru. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation buses will also run as usual.
5. Petrol pumps will also remain open and hotel owners and travel operators have said they will not close their businesses but have extended moral support to the bandh.
6. According to Bengaluru Police commissioner Kamal Pant, permission has not been taken for the shutdown. Pant said action will be taken against anybody trying to force business and commercial establishments to shut or disrupt normal life. Pant also said an additional 14,000 police and security personnel would be deployed to ensure law and order.
7. Chief minister BS Yediyurappa has appealed to the organisations to not go ahead with the shutdown. “Kannada has been given importance and we will do even more for promoting the language,” he said on Friday.
8. Yediyurappa said the development board was for the welfare of the Maratha community and not for the promotion of the Marathi language as some fear. Several border areas, including Belgavi and Bidar in Karnataka, have often seen tension between the Kannadigas and the Marathas.
9. Opposition parties have criticised the setting up of such community-specific development boards and alleged that this was an electoral tactic by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meant to divert attention from its governance failures.
10. According to political analysts, the move to set up MDA has electoral connotations. Assembly by-polls are due in Basava Kalyan following the death of the sitting Congress MLA B Narayan Rao and Maski apart from the vacancy caused in the Belgavi Lok Sabha seat after the death of Union minister Suresh Angadi. Maratha votes can play a decisive role in deciding the outcome in all these seats.