Bengaluru: The Siddaramaiah government's move to give religious minority status to the politically powerful Lingayat community in Karnataka has run into trouble. The key socio religious body of the Veershaiva-Lingayats, the Veerashaiva Lingayat Mahasabha, has objected to the move, hinting that it would lead to divisiveness in society.
- Congress plans 'minority' status for powerful Lingayat community
- Veershavai Lingayat Mahasabha, a key socio-religious body, opposes move
- Lingayats, seen loyal to BJP, comprise 17% of Karnataka's population
Declaring that the Veerashaiva Mahasabha opposes the cabinet decision, its president Shamanur Shivashankarappa said they would hold a meeting in Bengaluru on March 23 to discuss the issue.
"Lingayat and Veerashaiva are the same and that is what Basavanna said as well. But now seers from every caste are coming up and dividing the society," he said.
Both Lingayats and Veerashaivas are devotees of Lord Shiva, but there are sections within each community that believe they belong to a different religion. The Lingayat sect follows the 12th century poet and social reformer Basavanna or Basava, who defied the caste system and Vedic rituals in Hinduism.
The Mahasabha's decision also hints at differences within the Congress in this regard.
Shamanur Shivashankarappa Mallikarjun, Cabinet Minister for Horticulture and Agriculture Marketing, is the son of Shamanur Shivashankarappa, head of All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha. Sources within the party said he has opposed the decision.
The Lingayats -- who comprise around 17 per cent of the state's population -- are largely seen as loyal to the opposition BJP. Their biggest leader in the BJP camp is BS Yeddyurappa, a former chief minister of the state who is the party's candidate for the top job.
On Tuesday morning, Mr Yeddyurappa held a meeting at his Bengaluru home. Other than some senior BJP leaders, RSS leader Santosh was also present. After the meeting, Mr Yeddyurappa said, "From the beginning, we have said let the Akhil Bharat Veerashaiva Mahasabha take a final decision on this. Siddaramaiah has taken some decision. A detailed discussion should follow in the Mahasabha as soon as possible. Let them take a decision in the interest of the community. After that we will give a reaction."
The state government's move, coming barely two months ahead of the assembly elections in the state, was politically motivated, the BJP said.
"If there is an Oscar for hypocrisy it must go to Rahul Gandhi. He waxed eloquent yesterday on unity, love and fraternity between all today his virulent CM Siddaramaiah recommended dividing followers of Basavanna into separate 'minority religion' - something unheard of in the past," the Karnataka BJP has tweeted.