Minority status for Lingayats: Is this Siddaramaiah’s master-stroke or self goal?

Written by April 17, 2018 09:00

Bengaluru: Master stroke or self goal? These are the two questions that come to mind when one discusses the religious minority tag that Karnataka Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah recommended for the Lingayats.

Siddaramaiah

The move was aimed at eating into the vote bank of the BJP which relies heavily on the Lingayat votes. But the question is whether this move has done any damage to the BJP’s vote base or not.

At first, it did manage to confuse the BJP to a large extent. There was a good possibility that a 5 per cent vote share of the Lingayats could swing in favour of the Congress. Moreover, it restricted the BJP’s campaign to the north Karnataka region where the Lingayats are in majority.

After the recommendation was made, the same was sent to the Union Government for approval. However it has been put aside for now since the model code of conduct is in force.

Many political analysts see this is as a move which could go wrong for the Congress. There was immense opposition from within the Congress to Siddaramaiah who was hell-bent on making this decision. The problem is that this issue has confused the people and many do not even understand the difference between the Lingayats and Veerashaivas.

The other issue is that many Lingayats in the state have seen this as a political stunt and an attempt to divide their community. The BJP has been hard selling the point that this move by Siddaramaiah is aimed at dividing the Hindus.

Recent surveys showed that the Lingayat issues is one of the biggest debating points in this election. It has been so much about the Lingayats that it could have antagonised the Vokkaliga voters who normally back the Congress to a large extent. Leading political scientist, Sandeep Shastri says that Siddaramaiah may have taken a risk, by allowing the BJP to make religion an issue.

The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Chief, Dr. G Parameshwar says that the party did not hope to gain much out of this electorally. If the Lingayats perceive the Congress party to be the first to have fought for their cause, then we could expect a marginal gain, he said. He however maintained that this was not a political decision.

The fact that the issue is not benefiting the Congress can be seen from the fact that it has toned down the volume where this issue is concerned. No leader is heard speaking extensively about this issue during their campaign. The Lingayats who form 17 per cent of the electorate are strong in 100 constituencies in the state. The Congress feels that over-emphasising on the issue could earn it the wrath of the Lingayats who are accusing the party of dividing their community on religious lines. With a soft Hindutva approach being adopted by Rahul Gandhi, the party would not want to be accused of dividing Hindus in the state.

Moreover, there has been severe opposition from the ‘pancha peethas (five Veerashaiva mutts) about this issue which has further led the Congress to tone down its rhetoric on this issue.

B S Yeddyurappa considered to the tallest leader among the Lingayats feels that this was just an election gimmick. Siddaramaiah is dividing the people on emotional issues, he also said while also adding that the BJP’s vote bank is intact.