Politics
The BJP state chief accused CM Siddaramaiah of trying to divide the Lingayat community.

A faction of the Lingayat community, who had gathered in Bidar on July 18, revived the demand for the formation of a separate religion for the Lingayats.

Siddaramaiah’s positive response to their demand has now triggered the anger of Lingayat strongman and BJP state President, BS Yeddyurappa.

Speaking to reporters in Shivamogga on Saturday evening, Yeddyurappa said that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was trying to divide the Lingayat community.

“There is no difference between Veerashaivas and Lingayats. We are very much Hindus and cannot be separated from Hinduism. Siddaramaiah is trying to divide and rule here. He should know that the Lingayat community will stand united like always. There is no question of forming a separate religion,” BS Yeddyurappa told media persons on Saturday.

Stating that CM Siddaramaiah was trying to politicise a religious issue, the former Karnataka Chief Minister said that “a sensitive issue such as religion should not be politicised.”

“This issue has the potential to hurt religious sentiments and Siddaramaiah is harping on this fact. Let this issue remain a religious one. Politicising it will only create more disharmony. Siddaramaiah is trying to gain Lingayat votes by dividing the community,” the BJP leader added.

According to political analyst Sandeep Shastry, Siddaramaiah is playing the caste card to gain the Lingayat votes as the Congress party has never been able to garner the community’s support since 1990.

“It is quite simple why a certain section of the Lingayats want to form a separate religion. The Veerashaiva Pancha Peetha, represented by the most powerful seers of Siddaganga, Srigere, Nagaur, Suttur and Murugarajendra have declared themselves as Hindus. These organisations are Shaiva Brahmins,” Shastry says.

However, Basavanna, the founder of Lingayatism, had converted numerous members of several lower castes including the Madiga, Kumbara, Holaya, Madiwala and Hoolaya. Although these converts became Lingayats, the social discrimination is still present, which is why a certain section of the Lingayat community want to be separated from the “dominant Veerashaiva elite”, Shastry argues.

“The divide is already prevalent in the Lingayat community but only in unspoken terms. After the rally was held, it became evident and Siddaramaiah is trying to utilise it to the Congress’ benefit and gather the votes of a certain portion of the community,” he added.

This is not the first time Siddaramaiah has attempted to appease the Lingayat community. Earlier this year, he had issued an order, making it mandatory for all government offices in the state to house Basavanna’s picture.

Siddaramaiah was even felicitated by the Murughrajendra Mutt in Dharwad. Harping on the community’s sentiments, Siddaramaiah had said, “I am a true follower of Basavanna’s principles of social equality. No one decides which religion or caste they belong to when they are born. I was accidentally born in the Kuruba community but I truly believe in Basavanna’s teachings,” Siddaramaiah had said at the time of the felicitation.

“There are multiple social barriers within the Lingayat community itself. By giving them a sense of upliftment, Siddaramaiah and the Congress are trying to break into the BJP’s bastion for the upcoming elections in 2018,” Shatry said.