In Poll-Bound Karnataka, Competitive Politics By Congress, BJP Over Lingayats

The Congress government in Karnataka has recommended to the central government that Lingayats be given the status of religious minority.

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Rahul Gandhi visited Sri Siddaganga Mutt on Wednesday.


Bengaluru:  In the Karnataka election campaign, the issue of whether Lingayats should be considered members of a separate religion remains a central issue. And top bosses of the Congress and the BJP have been visiting Lingayat mutts in the state.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday visited the Siddaganga mutt in Tumakuru to meet 111-year-old Sri Sri Shivakumar Swamiji and also to reiterate the Congress interest in Lingayats who are seen as loyal to the BJP.

The Congress government in the state has recommended to the central government that Lingayats, a powerful upper caste community, be given the status of religious minority.

Before Mr Gandhi's arrival, a cut-out of Sri Sri Shivakumar Swamiji towered over the highway in Tumakuru. The mutt was closed to the public for some hours before the Congress chief arrived. 

Speaking to NDTV after the visit, Siddalinga Swamiji, the junior seer at the mutt, said the visit was not political. When asked what he felt about the Congress' recommendation of minority status for Lingayats -- and the BJP's assertion that it would not happen -- he did not wish to comment.  

BJP President Amit Shah, who also met the seer towards the end of March, has said the BJP will not allow a separate religious status.

"Many have expressed concern over the Siddaramaiah government's resolution on Veershaiva-Lingayat community. This is nothing but a conspiracy to mislead people before the elections and stopping BS Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister. We will not let this happen," said Mr Shah.

But the many visits by political leaders to this and other Lingayat mutts in the state are clear indications of just how much the support of the Lingayats -- who are an estimated 17 per cent of the voters in Karnataka -- actually counts.
 


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