The Congress today asked the BJP to make its stand clear on the Karnataka Cabinet’s decision to recommend religious minority status to Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat communities, after the saffron party accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of “playing with fire” for vote bank politics. Congress’s communications incharge Randeep Surjewala said the issue should not be linked with elections or the political process. “It is inappropriate to link the decision of Karnataka government viz-a-viz declaration of Lingayat Samaj as a minority community to the political processes,” he told reporters.
Surjewala asked BJP chief Amit Shah and the party’s state unit president B S Yeddyurappa to clarify whether they are in favour of the decision or against it. “You need to clarify and come out clearly. Do not hunt with the hare. That is why we have clearly said the sinister propaganda of BJP on this issue is condemnable. “For, they do not want to speak for the fear of annoying vote bank, yet they are opposing the demand of Lingayat samaj. It is condemnable and we dare Shri B S Yeddyuruppa and Shri Amit Shah to clarify their position in the open,” he said.
Surjewala said the Karnataka government had followed the due process before taking the decision. Referring to the Jain community, which was recognized as a religious minority a few years ago, he said Lingayats should also be accorded such status. He said the previous UPA Congress government had got the demand of the community examined and due process was followed by the Siddaramaiah dispensation. After examining historical and other evidences, the UPA government had come to a conclusion that the Jain community was a religious minority despite objections by the Agrawal community, which said they were part of them.
Lingayats and Veerashaivas constitute an estimated 17 per cent of the state’s population, and are considered the BJP’s traditional vote base in Congress-ruled Karnataka, which is likely to go to polls in April-May. The Cabinet decision was slammed by the BJP, which accused Siddaramaiah of “playing with fire” for vote bank politics and carrying on with the “divide and rule” policy.