The Lingayat community in Karnataka had been demanding that it should be treated as a separate religious group and the state government set up a committee to probe the circumstances under which the demand was made. The panel gave its report and the government accepted it on March 19. As per the recommendation of the committee the cabinet recognized the Lingayat and Veerashaiva –Lingayat as a religious minority. The religion of these communities will be recognized as Lingayat Dharam. They follow the teachings of 12th century reformer Basaveshwara and their beliefs and rites are different from Hinduism. This was a long pending demand which was enquired into and then accorded recognition. It was also decided to send the recommendation to the centre to include the sect into minority communities.
The community numbering about 17 per cent of the population is generally supporting the BJP and the former Chief Minister and currently the state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa is also Lingayat. The BJP said it a conspiracy against the BJP in the guise of supporting the community. The party said the Congress wanted to gain the support of the community which is traditionally the supporter of the BJP. They said it was vote-bank politics. The Congress retorted that the government only considered the old pending demand of the community and it was accepted only after a genuine probe which covered all social and religious aspects. The government has not done any favour to the community, the Chief Minister asserted. The decision was taken on the eve of the election because the committee was working on the subject, he added. Sops for the minorities would be available for the community but reservation would not be given to them because the community is already getting the benefit of reservation under the BC category. The Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the decision should not be linked to the impending elections to the state. Whatever be the claims of the Congress leaders, the decision would shift the loyalty of some portion of the community towards the Congress. The BJP would have to tread cautiously. The state BJP chief who is also the CM candidate of the party flayed the decision, but there is no concrete ground in his objection.
The majority of the community is celebrating the decision of the government. The BJP is on the horns of dilemma. The forceful opposition would offend the community. It is also reported that there is split in the BJP to oppose the decision. The BJP would convince the community that the Congress had no sympathy to its cause and it was political opportunism on the part of the Congress. Even after the BJP propaganda, a small favour from the community to the Congress would be a great contribution to the victory of the Congress in the coming elections. The centre is in no mood to consider the recommendation of the state government. But this would definitely create heartburns among the community to the advantage of the Congress.