After the massive rallies in Bidar and Belagavi, the Lingayat community organised another rally in Kalaburgi on Sunday, where they demanded a separate religion status.
Several Congress leaders including Water Resource Minister MB Patil attended the rally. This is now being seen as an attempt to keep the controversy alive till the 2018 assembly polls.
The Congress Ministers who attended the mega rally reiterated the demand for independent religion status for Lingayats.
This is the fourth rally in the last two months. The others were held in Latur (Maharashtra), Bidar and Belagavi.
Congress Ministers M B Patil, Vinay Kulkarni, Sharan Prakash Patil and Basavaraj Rayaraddy, attended the rally.
This happened despite the negative publicity received by the grand old party for dragging Siddaganga mutt seer Shivakumar Swami into the issue.
According to a report by The Hindu, lakhs of community members arrived from different parts of Hyderabad Karnataka region as well as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They marched from Gunj through Supermarket and Jagat Circle to Nutan Vidyalay Grounds where a public meeting was conducted.
They held saffron flags and banners and wore white Gandhi caps imprinted with Basaveshwaraâ€™s image, while playing traditional drums, singing Vachanas of Basavanna and other social reformers of 12th century and raising slogans for independent religion tag for their community, the report adds.
Heads and administrators of over 20 Lingayat mutts, including Mate Mahadevi, Sharanabasappa Appa, Tondadarya addressed the huge gathering.
â€śWe had been independent religion since in 12th century. We are now simply demanding for its constitutional recognition. We will not rest till our demand is met,â€ť Sharan Prakash Patil said.
Rashtriya Basava Sene (RBS), a national level organisation of Lingayats, was formed on Sunday and Minister Vinay Kulkarni was declared as the founding president of the outfit.
â€śWe need to build a new India. Ours is a tradition of Anubhava Mantapa. We will take a special membership drive to expand the base of RBS. All Virakta Mutts will be our officesâ€ť said Minister MB Patil.
â€śIf Veerashaivas want an independent religion tag for their sect, we donâ€™t have any problem. Let them go ahead with the demand. But they are trying to associate with Lingayats and demand for a Veerashaiva-Lingayat religion, which we oppose. They should not take the Lingayat term,â€ť he added.
However, Municipal Administration Minister Eshwar Khandre, who is also a Lingayat, did not atted the rally.
Minister Khandre is said to be against the issue, and had a few months ago, publicly claimed that there is no difference between Lingayats and Veerashaivas.
Sharan Prakash Patil had also agreed with Khandre, however, party insiders say that he chose to go along with the strategists and offer his support in order to break into the BJPâ€™s vote bank.
Minister MB Patil announced that the next rally will be held on November 5 in Hubballi, followed by another one in Vijayapura on November 19. A national conference will be held in Bengaluru on December 10.