Karnataka Assembly election 2018: On two-day visit to poll-bound state, can Amit Shah counter Congress’s Lingayat ‘masterstroke’?

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New Delhi | Updated: April 11, 2018 4:58 PM

Karnataka will go to polls in single-phase on May 12 and counting will take place on May 15. The tenure of 224-Chair House expires on May 30.

Amit Shah, BJP, Karnataka Assembly pollsBJP president Amit Shah

Karnataka Assmbly election 2018: The Congress party’s masterstroke of a political move recommending a separate religion tag to Lingayats could be set for a Bharatiya Janata Party counter. Lingayats, who constitute 17% of the state’s total population, hold key to form a government in Karnataka and it comes as no surprise that political parties are now doing their best to appease voters given the fact that a final decision with regard to their religion tag is still awaited.

After Congress’ move to recognise them as a religion and give a minority status tag, it is now the turn for the BJP to reach out to the people of the community. Starting Thursday, BJP chief Amit Shah will embark on a two-day state visit that will see him visit key places in Mumbai-Karnataka region. A report in The Indian Express said that Shah will visit places of significance to Lingayats who have traditionally been considered as the vote bank of BJP. Besides, Shah will also visit important temples and mutts in the region.

Shah’s visit to the region is seen as an attempt to negate the support that the Congress party earned, especially after its decision to grant independent religion tag. The report said that Shah will interact with people and participate in protests against the Siddaramaiah government. However, most of his time will be spent in visiting places that are significant to the Lingayat community. The BJP president will begin his visit from Suddarudh mutt in Hubli. The mutt was set up by Swami Siddarudh over 100 years ago and today it is a popular tourist destination. Shah will later visit a museum built in the memory of DR Bhendre in Dharwad. Bhendra was a popular Kannad poet and was awarded Jnanapita in 1964 for his contribution in the field of poetry.

The BJP president will then participate in a protest against the Congress government. He will also attend an event organised for grain collection to communicate the people’s anger against the state government’s poor policies for the farmers. After this, Shah will visit a memorial built for Puttaraj Gawai, a classical singer who authored more than 80 books. Gawai had set music for vachans written by Lingayat philosopher Basavanna and made them religious songs. Later, the BJP president will visit 2nd century Veeranarayan temple in Gadag region and 12th century Moorusavir mutt in Hubli.

The Siddaramaiah government had just before the assembly polls recognised the Lingayat community as an independent religion. The state government’s decision, however, needs the Centre’s approval where the BJP is in power. Initially, the Home Ministry had said that it will examine the Karnataka government’s recommendation but later forwarded it to the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Since the model code of conduct is in force in the state, any decision on the state’s proposal would be violation of the law. This has prompted the Congress leaders to target the BJP for deliberately delaying the process.

In turn, the BJP has been attacking the Congress for trying to divide the Hindus with such decisions. Karnataka will go to polls in single-phase on May 12 and counting will take place on May 15. The tenure of 224-Chair House expires on May 30.

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