Lingayat’s minority status a non-issue in Karnataka polls

The battle for Karnataka is definitely going to be a bitter fight but the Lingayat issue is not a gamechanger. This gives an advantage to the ruling Congress unless they commit some grave mistake

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Ramesh Muniyappa

Neither the common Veerashaiva nor the Lingayat man on the street in Old Mysore region has a negative opinion on them being accorded the minority status. “It is being exploited by a section of politicians and media houses for their own gains,” said Basavanna at a tea stall near the Gundlupet bus stand of Chamarajnagar, which borders Tamil Nadu and Kerala. His words are seconded by Jade Gowda, Hanchiya Naik, Ramachandra and Rachiah, all of whom nod in agreement.

In Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, Chikamagalur and Dakshina Kannada, the general public are not even worried or bothered to discuss the pros and cons of the Karnataka government’s decision to give the minority tag to Veerashaivas and Lingayats in the state. In Coorg district, a section of the local population feels that the Kodavas need minority status as well.

The general feeling amongst the people is that the issue is being exploited by a section of vested interests—politicians and political parties—to score brownie points and to tarnish the Congress state government, which has put the ball in the court of the central NDA government led by the BJP.

They further allege that corporate media houses, owing allegiance to political parties, are actually trying to create confusion and controversy only to please their political masters and increase their TRP.

The minority status issue, which was assumed to be a burning and sensitive issue for some political parties for the ensuing state elections, seems to be dying down. The space and time devoted to the issue in print and electronic media is also falling. This is a healthy sign for the ruling Congress government in the state.

The Congress-led government has been able to effectively communicate and make the Veerashaiva community understand the advantages and benefits it would be reaping. The Siddaramaiah government has effectively reached out to the educational institutions predominantly run by this community throughout the state.

The central leadership of the BJP has been forced to depute its national president, Union Council of Ministers and other senior party functionaries on a day-to-day basis to Karnataka to brighten the party’s prospects in the coming Assembly elections

The opposition, on the other hand, which tried to exploit the situation by stirring up the issue to bring a divide between Veerashaiva, Lingayat and other backward communities against the state government has failed even though they have been visiting various pontiffs belonging to these communities. Till now, they have not managed to convince any of them.

It may be recalled that the decision was taken by the state government after several rounds of discussion in several cabinet meetings. It was based on the Justice Nagamohan Das Committee’s recommendations on granting minority status to the Lingayat community.

The decision of the Congress government to grant minority status to Lingayats has been successful as on date in subduing any resistance from other communities and political parties, especially the BJP, which always considered that it had a strong hold on, if not a virtual monopoly over, Veerashaiva and Lingayat votes, by projecting its state president BS Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial candidate.

Several of Chief Minister Siddaramiah’s pro-poor programmes, all of which carry the suffix “Bhagya” (meaning fortune or wealth in Kannada), benefitting women, children and youth of rural areas and farmers across the state have resonated with the people. The Indira Canteens have made a tremendous positive impact among the poor, working class people in the urban areas of the state. All these have relegated the issue of granting minority status to the Lingayats to the background.

The central leadership of the BJP has been forced to depute its national president, Union Council of Ministers and other senior party functionaries on a day-to-day basis to Karnataka to brighten the party’s prospects in the coming Assembly elections.

This battle for Karnataka is definitely going to be a bitter fight but the Lingayat issue is not a gamechanger. This gives an advantage to the ruling Congress, unless they commit some grave mistake.

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Published: 07 Apr 2018, 8:59 AM