Leaders of the Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha alleged that there was a conspiracy behind Water Resources and Medical Education Minister DK Shivakumar issuing an apology for the previous government's decision to accord minority status to the Lingayat community (believers of Basava Tatva).
Speaking to reporters, retired IAS officer SM Jamdar, who spearheaded the movement for separate religion status for the Lingayat community said, "The Lingayat community has been deeply hurt by the statement and we have sought an explanation from him since he earlier extended support for the demand before the elections. We do not wish to divide the state along caste lines, and if anything like that happens Shivakumar will be responsible.”
The sharp reaction from the Lingayat Mahasabha comes after DK Shivakumar apologised on behalf of the Congress for interfering in the Lingayat issue in the run-up to the state Assembly Elections this year.
The Congress party distanced itself from Shivakumar's comments with Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao stating that it was Shivakumar's personal opinion and that it was not shared by the party. "His statement is his personal view. The party does not reflect the same view. In fact, the party has no stance on the issue as it is between the religious community and the government,” said Rao.
Shivakumar however stood by his statement and said that he did not make the statement to please or displease any seer but only revealed what he felt about the issue. He added that it was his personal opinion.
Jamdar meanwhile reiterated that the movement to attain separate religion status for the Lingayat community would continue even if there was absence of political support for the same
In the lead up to the State Assembly elections, Jamdar fronted several press conferences advocating for separate religion status for the Lingayat community. He also revealed historical documents including the 1871 Mysuru census to highlight that Lingayats were a separate religion until the erstwhile Mysuru ruler included the community as a sub-caste of Hindu religion.
However, the movement turned political after then Karnataka Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, formed an expert committee and accorded minority status to Lingayats in March 2018.
The run-up to the Assembly elections in May saw several Congress leaders highlight the decision to accord minority status to Lingayats in their campaign speeches. Even Congress President Rahul Gandhi turned to Basavanna, the 12th century philosopher who founded Lingayatism, to woo voters. The move however was opposed by Veerashaivas, another community who are also followers of Basavanna.
The move however backfired on the Congress party in the elections after three Congress ministers, including Siddaramaiah who supported the movement, lost in their respective constituencies. Siddaramaiah managed to scrape a slender win in Badami, the other constituency he contested from.
Ever since the elections, Congress leaders have maintained a studied silence on the issue until Shivakumar's admission this week. Rahul Gandhi, who addressed a rally in Bidar in June, one of the centres of the Lingayat protests, did not speak about the issue.