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Karnataka elections: Amit Shah accuses Siddaramaiah govt of dividing Hindus

BJP president Amit Shah said the party was open to fielding the pontiffs of mutts as candidates in the May 12 Karnataka assembly elections. Four of the five mutt seers belong to the Lingayat sect, which was last week recognised as a religious minority by the state government.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2018 23:49 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Davanagere
Karnataka elections,Karnataka assembly elections,Amit Shah
BJP national president Amit Shah addresses a press conference after the announcement of the poll dates for the Karnataka assembly election, in Davangere on Tuesday. (BJP/Twitter)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Tuesday accused Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah of trying to divide Hindus in the state by seeking to confer the status of a religious minority on the Lingayat and Veerashaiva Linagayat communities. The Congress party, which governs Karnataka, rubbished the allegation.

“Just ahead of the (assembly) elections in Karnataka, they have tried to divide Lingayats and Veerashaivas, also Lingayats and other communities, by announcing minority status for them,” Shah told reporters.

Questioning the timing of the move, he asked the Siddaramaiah government, “What were you doing for five years?”

“In 2013 when your own (United Progressive Alliance, or UPA) government was in power at the Centre, they had rejected it. Why was Siddaramaiah silent then?. This is an attempt to divide the Hindus..,” he said.

On the state government’s decision, which is subject to central government approval, Shah said the timing was questionable, coming less than two months before the polls, which the Election Commission of India on Tuesday set for May 12.

Read: Minority status for Lingayats: Who they are and how they affect Karnataka elections

“It is a conspiracy to stop (BJP chief ministerial candidate BS) Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister,” Shah said, adding that chief minister Siddaramaiah was not an AHINDA (ar local acronym for minority communities, backward classes and Dalits) leader, but ‘Ahindu’, or anti-Hindu.

“On one hand, Congress president (Rahul Gandhi) speaks about uniting Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, while on the other hand in Karnataka, its own chief minister is speaking about dividing Hindus. “I have not seen such a sharp difference within a political party,” he added.

Congress’s Karnataka unit president G Parameshwara said a demand for the recognition of Lingayats as a religious minority bad been made in the past by BJP leaders. “It is true that the UPA government rejected the move. Now they (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) are running the government at the centre, so they can recognise the sect as a minority. After all, the state’s decision was based on an experts’ committee’s recommendation.”

When asked about the Congress’s recent allegation that the Janata Dal (Secular) was a ‘B’ team of the BJP, Shah denied any nexus between the two parties . “We will contest all 224 seats in the state. There is no question of an alliance,” he said.

Read:Karnataka assembly elections on May 12: What’s at stake for Congress, BJP

The BJP president accused the Congress of being against the interests of farmers. “In Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the BJP had ruled for a long time, farmer suicides were low. Even those were for reasons other than of agriculture. Where the Congress is in power, farmer suicides are high,” he said.

Shah also said the BJP was open to fielding the pontiffs of mutts, or Hindu religious seats, as candidates in the May 12 assembly elections in Karnataka, but a decision would be taken by the central leadership, based on merit.

“We are not opposed to fielding seers in the election, but such tickets will be given on the basis of merit and the Parliamentary board of the party will take a decision on this,” Shah said at a press conference.

Shah, who is on a two-day tour of Karnataka, visited two mutts on Monday and is set to visit three more on Tuesday. Crucially, four of the five pontiffs belong to the Lingayat community.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 15:15 IST