After a marathon cabinet meeting and informal discussion with the powerful Lingayat seers, the state government declared that it would send the recommendation to the Centre. The state cabinet has decided to accept the recommendations of the Justice Nagamohan Das Committee which had asked the state to accord a separate religion tag to Lingayats.
Speaking to media after the cabinet meeting, Water Resources Minister and Lingayat leader MB Patil said it is now up to the Centre to take a call on it. “Our fight has reached a logical end today. We have always maintained that Lingayats are not Hindus. Hope the Centre will accept our demand,” he said.
The RSS has already opposed the independent religion tag to Lingayats on the ground that it will “divide” the Hindu religion. Reacting to the Cabinet decision, state BJP spokesman S Prakash said it was an “election-time appeasement” of the Lingayats and accused the Congress of dividing the society.
The Cabinet decision has put the main opposition BJP in a fix as Lingayats are the backbone of the BJP in Karnataka. Its CM candidate BS Yeddyurappa is also a Lingayat and the saffron party in the state is in a dilemma.
According to a confidant of Yeddyurappa, “If we oppose it, we might lose the support of Lingayats who are over 16% of the state’s population. If we support it, the RSS may not like it. We really need to be careful.”
Meanwhile, National General Secretary of the BJP, P Muralidhar Rao has opposed the move saying that Siddaramaiah is playing with fire for vote bank politics. In his tweet, he accused the Congress party of divide and rule.
Congress carrying ‘Divide and Rule’ legacy of Britishers in India !
Siddaramaiah ji is playing with fire for vote bank politics.
Why Congress has done this before elections?
Why they haven’t done 4 years back??? https://t.co/YWVHH7FbbG
— P Muralidhar Rao (@PMuralidharRao) March 19, 2018
The Cabinet meeting convened to discuss the issue was chaotic, claim insiders. Some argued that it should be called Lingayat religion and the others insisted that it should be called Veerashaiv–Lingayat religion. However, the expert committee had recommended that it should be called only Lingayat religion.
Lingayats are the followers of 12th Century social reformer and mystic Basavanna or Basaveshwara. A Brahmin by birth, Basavanna revolted against the Hindu caste system and founded Lingayat religion to create a casteless society.
The Veerashaivas are a Shaiva sect and not considered a part of Lingayats. However, they insist that they are also Lingayats and the religion should include them too. But some scholars argue that Veerashaivas are a part of Hinduism and not the followers of Basavanna.
The decision is likely to have huge political and social implications as the Lingayats are the most powerful community, both politically and economically. According to the leaked caste census data, they form 14% of the state’s population.
After the seers and community leaders asked the chief minister to accord them an independent religion status, Siddaramaiah had constituted an expert committee to look into the matter. The Congress was divided over the issue and some had opposed sending a recommendation to the Centre.