Karnataka: Months ahead of the Assembly polls, the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka has granted a separate religion status for the Lingayat community. The decision is being viewed as a part of the party’s appeasement politics and comes just a day after Congress President Rahul Gandhi claimed that his party believes in uniting India. The Siddramaiah government has accepted suggestions of Nagamohan Das committee and the Karnataka state cabinet has given a nod to the recommendation of separate religion for Lingayat community.
Criticising the move, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swami said that the move is “anti-national” and hoped that the Lingayat community “realises that it is not in their interest” to be declared a separate religion.
Briefing reporters after a cabinet meeting, Law Minister T B Jayachandra said it had accepted the recommendations of an expert panel set up by the state government on the issue. “The decision has been taken after deep deliberations and discussion…,” he said.
According to the expert panel, Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats are those who believed in the philosophy of Basaveshwara, 12th-century social reformer, he said. Jayachandra said the decision would not affect the rights and interests enjoyed by the existing minorities
The move comes in contrast with Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s claim that his party advocates unity and works towards “uniting” the country. “Anger is being spread in India. The country is being divided and two people of the same nation are being made to fight each other. We are here to unite people. this (hand) is the only symbol that can unite everyone,” he had said on March 17.
The separate religion status to Lingayat community is being viewed as an appeasement tactic to divide communities ahead of the elections. Lingayat community seers had, on Saturday met Siddaramaiah pressing for a separate religion status to Lingayats. The state Cabinet will have to approach the Centre forwarding its recommendation for a Union Cabinet nod.
Karnataka State Minorities Commission had formed a seven-member committee, headed by retired high court Judge H N Nagamohan Das, on the issue which submitted its report on March 2.
The Lingayat/Veerashaiva community that owes allegiance to the “social reform movement” initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state.
Meanwhile, the BJP today slammed the Karnataka government for its decision to recommend separate religion status for Lingayats, accusing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of “playing with fire for vote bank politics”.
Party general secretary in-charge of Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao accused the state’s ruling Congress of practising a “divide and rule” policy.
“Congress carrying ‘Divide and Rule’ legacy of Britishers in India. Siddaramaiah ji is playing with fire for vote bank politics. Why has Congress done this before elections? Why haven’t they done it 4 years back?” he said in a tweet.
BJP chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa hails from the community and the government’s decision is being seen by the saffron party as an attempt by the Congress to divide Lingayat voters, who strongly backed him have in the past polls.
On the other hand, clashes broke out between Lingayat followers and Veerashaiva followers in Kalaburagi, following the state government’s announcement. Lingayat followers had come to celebrate state cabinet’s approval for the recommendation of separate religion for Lingayat community, while the Veerashaiva followers had come to protest against the same.
(With PTI and ANI inputs)