From Karnataka To London, Politics Over Lingayat Votes Takes A Giant Leap

 
From Karnataka To London, Politics Over Lingayat Votes Takes A Giant Leap

BENGALURU:  With less than a month to go for the assembly elections in Karnataka, politics over the state's Lingayat-Veerashaiva votes has found a new flashpoint - the birth anniversary of Basaveshwara, the 12th-century saint revered by both sects. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to pay his respects to the saint on the banks of river Thames in London, a lawmaker of his party back home said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah cannot be allowed the privilege.

"Siddaramaiah should not be allowed to garland any statue of Basaveshwara throughout the state," said Shobha Karandlaje, the BJP parliamentarian from Udupi-Chikmagalur constituency. "Mr Siddaramaiah split the Lingayat community only with an intention to gain votes and create a vote bank for his party... I request all the Lingayats and Veerashaivas to bar Siddaramaiah from garlanding Basaveshwara's statue".

The BJP, which traditionally enjoyed support among the state's substantial Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, has been stung by the Congress move to provide Lingayats with religious minority status, which helps a community get government grants and other advantages in education.

It has found support among the key religious figures in the community. One of them even communicated this to BJP chief Amit Shah during his visit to the state and later, made the letter public.


The BJP is going all out to stem the tide. Over the last month, the BJP leaders belonging to the Lingayat community, including its chief ministerial candidate BS Yedyurappa, have spoken at length, alleging the Congress move is politically motivated. Party chief Amit Shah visited a number of Lingayat mutts and met a number of leaders of the sect. The matter has also reached the court.

Today, PM Modi, who is on a visit to London, is expected to unveil a statue of Basaveshwara. This morning, he uploaded a video clip on Twitter, paying his respects to the saint:

Mr Shah, who touched down in the state for another round of campaign, started it with a visit to a Basaveshwara statue. Not to be outdone, the Congress has made similar plans to start off the day for the Chief Minister.

Mr Siddaramaih has maintained silence on the BJP lawmaker's outburst. But his home minister, Ramalinga Reddy, lost his cool. "Who is she? Who is she to tell us? Basaveshwara is not the property of Shobha Karandlaje," Mr Reddy said.