Political parties in Karnataka must follow Basava’s philosophy
As political parties tripped over themselves to pay tributes to Basaveshwara, the 12t century poet-philosopher and social reformer on his birth anniversary, most seem to have forgotten what he fought for. His dream was the establishment of a casteless society which renounced the rituals of Hindu society. He stood for openness and democracy and for the right of people from all castes, classes, gender and creeds to express themselves.
Today, his followers, the Veerashaivas or Lingayats, have become sought after as a votebank to the extent that the Congress government in the state has proposed minority religious status for them.
But while many leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, garlanded Basava’s statue, the message of inclusiveness is not reflected in ticket distribution. Muslims constitute 13% of the state’s population, but the BJP has not given them a single ticket in the list of 154 candidates announced so far. The Janata Dal (Secular) has given Muslims four tickets out of the 126 candidates it has announced and the Congress has offered 15 seats in the 218 candidates it has announced.
Basvanna’s philosophy enabled women mystics like Akka Mahadevi, Neelagangambike and Kethaladevi to emerge and fight for a just and equal society, but political parties which pay lip service to his ideals hardly give any representation to them. Though women constitute half of the state’s population, so far there are only 22 women among the 500 candidates who have been given tickets by the three major parties. Here again, the Congress leads with 15.
The scenario was no different in the outgoing assembly. Of the 224 seats, there were just six women and 11 Muslims legislators. Political parties often use the excuse of winnability as the key factor in deciding to deny representation to certain weaker and marginalised sections of society. These were the same philosophies that Basvanna and his followers fought so bitterly against.
Political parties should follow his most famous saying “kaayakave kailasa” or ‘work itself is worship’. The choice before all parties is clear. They can go to the polls promising a just, inclusive society based on Basava’s philosophy or propagate a divisive one. So far, unfortunately, the latter has happened.