With six months to go for polls, the demand for a separate religion tag for Lingayats, supported by many ministers of the ruling Congress-led Karnataka government, has now got a push from some minority communities.
Many leaders from different communities, including Muslims, Jains and Dalits, supported the separate Lingayat religion cause at a hugely attended rally in Ambedkar District Stadium, Vijayapura on Sunday, reported The Hindu.
“We have been supporting the demand for Lingayat religion as we feel that their demand is justified; therefore, we have decided to extend our support by offering eatables and water to those coming from the far-flung areas of the state,” Irfan Shaikh, a member of Begum Talab Parisara Rakshana Samiti, was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
Other than providing food and water, some organisations from these communities also arranged vehicles for people from remote villages to reach the venue.
Excise Minister RB Timmapur, a prominent Dalit face from the Congress, spoke about how the ideologies of Ambedkar and Basaveshwara, founder of the Lingayat community, were similar.
The rally was attended by all the ministers who have been vehemently batting for the separate Lingayat religion cause ahead of the 2018 polls.
Other than Water Resources Minister MB Patil, Mines and Geology Minister Vinay Kulkarni and former minister Sharanprakash Patil, retired IAS officer SM Jamdar and JD(S) MLC Basavaraj Horatti addressed the huge gathering.
The leaders asked dissenting anti-Lingayat seers to join them and warned that they would face public anger in the coming days if they didn’t cater to the popular demand.
JD(S) leader Basavaraj said that the movement is an apolitical one and has got the support of even BJP leaders from across the border in Maharashtra, but that the state BJP leaders were opposing them.
“It is surprising that the BJP leaders of two different states are having different views on Lingayats. Let me make it very clear that if the seers and BJP leaders in Karnataka continue to oppose us, then we will expose them with solid and substantial historical records to prove that Lingayats were never Hindus,” Jamdar said in his speech.
In September, Siddhaganga Mutt seer Shivakumara Swami, one of the most revered leaders of the community, made an apparent u-turn on the issue. The leaders advocating for the separate religion had then alleged the role of RSS in influencing the seer’s decision.
Lingayats have been the traditional voter base for the BJP, according to political observers.
Commenting on the issue, political analyst Muzaffar Assadi had said, “The Congress has much to gain if the Lingayats remain firm on a separate religion.”