When the people of the Lingayat community from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and other states held a public gathering in Bidar on July 19 last year, their agenda was straight and upfront – a status of Independent religion. The rally was called for Lingayats to demand that Lingayatism be classified as a separate religion rather than a caste in Hinduism.
The community also submitted a memo addressed to the Cheif Minister Siddaramaiah to take up their petition for a separate religion with the center. Interestingly, the very next day, the CM said he would recommend classification of Lingayats as a religion to the center if the mandate from the community is unanimous.
It’s not even nine months and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his government have cleared the minority status for Lingayatism. Know the question is, why did Siddaramaiah Government clear Minority Status for Lingayat Community so soon? And the reason is –
To Keep the BJP On Tenter Hooks
The Lingayat community has a strong presence in the state of Karnataka, especially in North Karnataka. They are dominant in nearly 100 out of the 224 assembly seats in Karnataka. The Lingayats have been demanding a separate status of the religion for a long time. Now that the issue came at the center stage last year, Siddaramaiah accepted their demand just in time before the Karnataka assembly elections due in May 2018.
Interestingly, the community has been voting for BJP for the longest period of time, and the move is seen as a political attempt to divide the Lingayat votes ahead of the assembly election. Nevertheless, the Congress government now can lob the ball in the BJP-led Centre’s court as it sends the pitch to get the final approval. Now if there is any delay by the center, it will definitely influence the BJP’s position in the upcoming elections.
Can Siddaramiah’s Stance on Lingayat Community Backfire?
Knowing the caste arithmetic very well the state government has now put the BJP in a fix. They can no way sidetrack the issue because the Lingayat community has been their major electoral support. However, if there is a split of the Lingayat votes one cannot underestimate BJP’s push for the consolidation of the Hindus. Besides, now that the community is not completely behind the demand, you never know if Congress only end up uniting the Hindu sections to vote for BJP.
The move has divided the state government already with leaders of the Veershaiva group opposing the move. The Veerashaiva are highly angered by this whole incident. And now that the whole event is considered as a politically motivated move, there are high chances that even the Lingayat community who have been voting for BJP will continue to do so, despite the stance of the center. And now that the strongest community leader Yeddyurappa belongs to BJP, he too can rally the votes of his community in next elections.
However, this wouldn’t be easy because a memorandum demanding a separate religion for Lingayat – Veerashaiva community was sent to PM Manmohan Singh in 2013 which had Yeddyurappa’s signature as well along with 56 other parliamentarians. Out of 57, 27 belonged to BJP. Looks like he is taking two stands – religious stand in 2013 and political stand as of now.
Nevertheless, now that both Siddaramiah and Congress have played with fire, it would be interesting to see how will it affect both the parties in the assembly elections as well as in the Lok Sabha election due in 2019. What are your views?