Congress, BJP spar over Lingayat issue

City Political

Minority tag is  a selfish decision: JD(S)

The Siddaramaiah government’s decision to award Lingayats minority status has been applauded as a political masterstroke by many. But some have criticized the move as a political gimmick to divide the electorally important Lingayat-Veerashaiva community ahead of the Karnataka assembly elections.

Praising the Siddaramaiah government, KPCC general secretary L. Hanumanthaiah told The Observer: “We will win an absolute majority. The BJP has never done justice to the aspirations of the people of Karnataka. The issue will hardly affect poll results, but now they have got something to complain and create a fuss about.”

Tejashwini Gowda, a former MP and BJP functionary, said: “The timing of the decision is highly questionable. It is driven by selfish political interests of the Congress government. After they failed to address developmental issues, they are resorting to such dirty politics to manipulate the people of Karnataka.”

Questions over the timing of the decision gained credence when about 50 Lingayat seers advised the community to support the Congress. “We have decided to support those who supported us,” Shivamurthy Murugha Rajendra Swami, the seer of Chitradurga’s Murugha mutt, a newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The community had requested the Siddaramaiah to grant religious minority status to them, but the issue is being politicized by the BJP. The Lingayats are happy, and that is all that matters. There should be no opposition in this matter,” KPCC secretary Chalavadi Narayanaswami said.

Lingayats will not be able to enjoy the benefits of a minority community unless the Centre issues a notification. The Karnataka High Court has asked the Centre to clarify its stance on the issue.

The demand for minority status to Lingayats dates long back. The UPA government had, in 2013, rejected the demand to grant Lingayats a separate religion status.

Bharati Shetty, spokesperson for the BJP, said: “This is clearly for political gains. Why didn’t they grant religious minority tag to Lingayats when they were in power at the Centre.  The Congress, not BJP, are the ones who have always practised divide-and-rule politics.”

The JD(S), which has shared power with both Congress and BJP, agrees with the latter.

JD(S) functionary B.M. Farooq, who was the party’s candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections held in March, said: “The move to award Lingayats religious minority tag is going to adversely affect the situation…. It is a selfish and dirty move. It will not affect anybody; it is an attempt to manipulate the people of the state.”

On March 23, the Karnataka government put forward before the Centre a proposal seeking minority status to Lingayats. The Centre has not responded to it.

Both the Congress and BJP are leaving no stone unturned to win the May 12 elections. The stakes are higher for the Congress because Karnataka is the only major state where it now holds office. The BJP hopes to unseat the Congress and reverse the psychological disadvantage it suffered after its defeat in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-elections. These seats had been vacated by the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and deputy CM respectively.


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