Opposition MLAs caught in Lingayat dilemma | india | Hindustan Times
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Opposition MLAs caught in Lingayat dilemma

With the stage set for another trial of strength in the Karnataka assembly on Thursday, the ruling BJP has resorted to exploiting the Lingayat background of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to ensure a victory.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2010 00:17 IST
Salil Mekaad

With the stage set for another trial of strength in the Karnataka assembly on Thursday, the ruling BJP has resorted to exploiting the Lingayat background of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to ensure a victory.

Several pontiffs from powerful Lingayat mutts (religious centres) are believed to have made calls to non-BJP MLAs belonging to the community on Wednesday, asking them to back Yeddyurappa.

Around 28 Lingayat MLAs of the opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), mostly from North Karnataka, face a dilemma: whether to follow their party line or vote for the CM.

A Lingayat leader from the Opposition camp admitted the calls from religious leaders from the community had put Congress and JD-S MLAs in a fix.

The BJP has denied involving religious leaders but State Congress Working President D.K. Shiv Kumar said Lingayat high priests had made several calls to party legislators asking them to back Yeddyurappa during the trust vote.

“Some have also been offered bribes to the tune of R20 crore,” he alleged.

A Lingayat leader from the BJP justified the involvement of religious leaders in the drive to mobilise support for the state government. “What is wrong in promoting a community leader and keeping the flock together? After all, when a crisis comes, it is the community that will help you, not the party,” he said without wanting to be named.

After the disqualification of MLAs, the BJP has the support of 107 legislators (including the Speaker and one Independent) and the Opposition has 101 members (Congress 73 and JD(S) 28). A figure of 105 is required to prove majority in a House that was reduced to 208 members from 224.

Lingayats form 16% of the state’s population while their arch rivals Vokkaligas form 10%.

The JD(S) has complained that its MLA from Channapatna, M.C. Ashwath, has gone incommunicado after being approached by Tourism Minister Janardhan Reddy.

“Unnecessary pressure is being brought on our legislators to join the BJP. He (CM) is using all means to exert such pressure,” said Deve Gowda, JD(S) chief and Vokkaliga leader.

Yeddyurappa has pampered the mutts after he took over the reins of the state by attending their functions and sanctioning funds. Bureaucrats from the community also got prominent postings during his tenure. He has also kept his community happy by inducting 11 of them into his ministry of 34 members.