Ahead of Karnataka election 2018, Siddaramaiah-led Congress government of the state has accepted a proposal to grant a separate religion status to the Lingayat community. The decision of Karnataka state Cabinet is being seen as a bid to woo Lingayat voters ahead of the high-octane electoral battle in the state. The Congress is seeking to retain power in the state in the face of a high-pitched campaign being run by BJP. Karnataka is expected to go to polls in May this year.
Here are 10 points to know:
- Nagamohan committee had suggested granting separate religion status to Lingyat community under section 2D of the Karnataka Minorities Commission Act. Siddaramiah Cabinet accepted the suggestion today.
- The proposal to grant separate religious status to Lingayats will now be sent to the BJP-led Narendra Modi government at the Centre for final approval. It is likely to become another political flashpoint between the Congress and the BJP in the run-up to the assembly elections.
- Earlier, Siddaramiah government had formed high court judge HN Nagamohan Das (retired)-led 7-member committee to look into the demand of granting separate religion status to Lingayats. Nagamohan committee submitted its report to the Siddaramiah government on March 2 this year.
- If finally approved, the dominant Lingayats community of Karnataka will become a “religious minority.” The BJP and other sections of Hindu community in the state have maintained a stance over the issue. The BJP has also accused the Siddaramiah government of trying to divide the society on religious lines.
- Lingayats constitute 17% of the total population of Karnataka. Interestingly, BJP chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa is also from the Lingayat community, which is dominant in North Karnataka.
- Yeddyurappa has, however, said on several occasions that he would not allow the efforts to “divide” the community.
- The Lingayat community is often clubbed together with the Veerashaiva community. The Lingayat sect owes allegiance to 12th Century social reform movement started by Basaveshwara. They argue that their religious practices are not similar to the Veerashaivas, who are against taking the Lingayats out of the Hindu religion fold.
- Even as demand for a separate religion status has emerged from within the dominant community, there is also resentment on the ground against treating both Lingayats and the Veerashaiva community as the same. Veerashaiva seers are not happy with the Nagamohan committee report as it excluded their community members. Veerashaivas had urged Karnataka government to refrain from making recommendation to the Centre in the matter before the completion of Assembly elections in the state.
- According to PTI, Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha, which considers both Lingayats and Veerashaivas as the same, is demanding separate status for the community. However, there is another group that demands separate religion status only for the Lingayats and they consider Veerashaivas as Hindus.
- On Sunday, Lingayat seers had met Karnataka CM Siddaramiah, urging him to accept their demand to implement the suggestions of Nagamohan committee. The seers were led by Gadag-based Tontadarya Mutt’s Siddalinga Swami. “Our fight is not new, it has been a 900-year-old fight and it has taken a shape now. The Chief Minister should implement the report and accord separate status to Lingayat community,” PTI had quoted him as saying.