By saying that BJP doesn’t intend to divide society like Congress, Shah could have played right into Congress’ plans.

Will Amit Shahs hint at Centres stand on Lingayat issue end up helping the CongressRepresentational image/ Amit Shah via Twitter
news Karnataka 2018 Wednesday, April 04, 2018 - 18:17

With Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah speaking out on the Lingayat issue, sources say the saffron party is trying to downplay his comments as the BJP has not yet taken a stance on the issue.

"We will not allow the division of Veerashaiva-Lingayat communities.Do not worry, seers … We will not allow the use of religion for politics. I am not here to do politics. I am here to take your blessings,” Shah said during an interaction with Veerashaiva seers in Badami on Tuesday.

“I want to assure you that there won’t be any success in dividing the religion. This responsibility is not yours, but ours. As long as the BJP is there, irrespective of which government is in power that there will not be any division in the society. The party is committed to it,” he added.

This is the first time that the BJP has been vocal on the issue. Otherwise, BJP chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa (himself a Lingayat), who is never shy to lambast the ruling Congress over any issue, has remained rather evasive on this issue.

Even on Wednesday, when the media asked Yeddyurappa about the Lingayat issue, he said, “I don't want to comment ... From today, in each district and concerned Assembly constituency, we will discuss the issue by taking everyone's opinion and then the party president will take a call."

Incidentally, when the Karnataka High Court sought the Centre’s decision on the matter on Tuesday, Additional Solicitor General of India Prabhuling K Navadgi said that he was yet to receive instructions on the issue. The Centre has been asked to make its stand clear by April 13.

Sources in the state BJP say that opposing the minority tag now might antagonise the party's primary votebank. A BJP leader hinted that in all likelihood the Centre won’t take a stand citing the model code of conduct, like it has on the Cauvery issue.

They are trying to play down Amit Shah’s statement and propagate the BJP as a party against the division of society in general, and nothing about the Lingayat issue in particular.

“The official line of the party is that the ‘Lingayat controversy was created to deny Yeddyurappa the chance of becoming CM in Karnataka. Siddaramaiah, for his selfish ends, divided Lingayats and Veerashaivas’,” sources said.

According to political observers, Veerashaivas and Lingayats traditionally form the BJP vote bank, especially in the northern districts of the state bordering Maharashtra. And the special minority status for Lingayats, is likely to reap political dividends for the ruling Congress.

Veerashaivas, who are considered more affluent and an ‘upper’ caste, are likely to continue voting for the BJP, while the Lingayats will add to the Ahinda (minorities, backward classes and Dalits) votebank of the Congress, they claim.

“Now, for the first time, the BJP has been forced to take a stand. This is, in a way, going according to the script where Siddaramaiah can say it's not me but them (the Centre). He can say that it was a demand by the people and he took care of it,” says Narendar Pani, professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

Similarly, Harish Ramaswamy, professor at Karnatak University says, “Now things are getting clear slowly, The calculations suggest that Lingayats are in majority. Many of the mutts actually working under the sub-caste groups even in central Karnataka have made it clear they want the Lingayat minority tag.”

In a contentious decision, the Siddaramaiah-led government had sought a Central nod for the religious minority tag for Lingayats in March. Siddaramaiah has maintained that the government's decision was based on the demands from within the community.

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