Cracks appeared to have widened between the two major factions fighting for the cause of a separate religion tag to the dominant Lingayat faith in Karnataka. “There is a conspiracy to sabotage the movement for separate religion status to Lingayat faith,” Lingayat Mahasabha Vedike general secretary Shivanand Jamdar alleged. On Friday, another group All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha had issued a statement claiming the backing of the highly respected Siddaganga mutt pontiff centenarian Shivakumar Swamiji.
The Mahasabha demanded that the separate religion be known as Veerashaiva Lingayat but the Lingayat Mahasabha Vedike said it should be Basava Dharma, since the Lingayat faith revolves around the preaching of 12th century AD social reformer Basaveshwara. Shivakumar Swamiji of the influential Siddaganga Mutt holds a sway among Lingayats.
Jamdar said he and Kudalasangama Panchamasali Peeta pontiff Basava Jaya Mrutyunjaya Swami and others called on Siddaganga Swamiji to clear the air. “Siddaganga pontiff is very clear. The Swamiji says that the Mutt identifies itself with Basaveshwara’s ideology and they cannot exist without it,” said Jamdar.
Ahead of the assembly elections, due early next year, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah had raked up the long- pending demand of Lingayats for a separate religion tag to their faith. It was seen as an apparent bid to cut into the support base of the BJP which banks significantly on the dominant Lingayats, numerically the largest community.
Unsure of the political impact of pushing the issue further, the ruling Congress, however, seems to have become cautious in recent days. BJP strongman and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat and the party has steered clear of the issue so far.