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Lingayat Mahasabha attempts to gather support for Karnataka leaders

Days before the state elections, the government of former chief minister Siddaramaiah had decided to grant minority religion status to the Lingayat sect amid opposition even from within the Congress

india Updated: Jun 09, 2018 20:23 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Lingayat,Karnataka,Lingayat Mahasabha
Days before the state elections, the government of former chief minister Siddaramaiah had decided to grant minority religion status to the Lingayat sect.(PTI File Photo)

Amid concerns that association with the Lingayat religion movement led to the exclusion of leaders from the state Cabinet, the Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha came out in support of the move and put out an advertisement in leading dailies to “dispel myths”.

Days before the state elections, the government of former chief minister Siddaramaiah had decided to grant minority religion status to the Lingayat sect amid opposition even from within the Congress. However, in the elections the Congress was reduced to 78 seats from the 122 it won in 2013.

Some leaders had blamed the Lingayat tag as being one of the reasons for this lackluster performance, arguing that the move had not benefitted the party and had in fact played into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s hands.

Such has been the mistrust of the movement that even the Janata Dal (Secular) decided not to name its senior leader Basavaraj Horatti as a minister, a move he said that was influenced by his involvement in the Lingayat movement.

In Saturday’s advertisements, the Mahasabha has argued that a suitable comparison would be with the elections of 2008, when the BJP swept to power, predominantly based on its strong performance in the northern parts of the state, where Lingayats are a dominant force.

According to the Mahasabha, there are 13 districts in the northern and central regions of the state that account for 96 seats where Lingayats are numerically very significant.

Of these seats, the Mahasabha argues, the Congress won 40 in 2018, as against 29 in 2008. The figure for 2013 was 57. “Ever since the Karnataka Assembly elections have been announced, many Congress leaders and few media houses have been blaming the Lingayat movement for the Congress’s setback in the elections,” the advertisement reads.

The Mahasabha argues instead that most Lingayats in the northern regions voted for the party because of the move, claiming that 36% of Lingayat candidates won, as against 30.4% of Vokkaliga candidates, 28% of OBC candidates, and 34% of scheduled caste candidates who were fielded for the polls.

Speaking to HT, SM Jamdar, leader of the Mahasabha, said there was no doubt that the leaders of the movement were being punished. In a cabinet dominated by Vokkaligas, 10 of the 27 ministers belong to the community, an attempt was being made to suppress the community, Jamdar said.

“Lingayats have always been vary of the Congress, but this time, colluding with the JD(S), the Congress has once again tried to sideline Lingayat leaders like MB Patil,” Jamdar said. “We felt compelled to issue the advertisement to counter the erroneous assumptions being spread by political leaders and the media,” he said.

The advertisement comes at a time when the leader of the movement, MB Patil has kicked up a row over his exclusion from the Cabinet. He met Congress president Rahul Gandhi, along with the Karnataka Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao and rural development minister Krishna Byre Gowda.

A senior leader in the Congress said that Patil was aiming for the state Congress chief’s post, which would fall vacant now that the incumbent G Parameshwara has been made the deputy chief minister, who has charge of the home and Bengaluru development portfolios.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Gandhi, Patil said he had conveyed to the party leadership the feelings of party workers and people in the state. “There is no question of demanding anything, I only informed them about the situation,” he said.

There are currently six vacant berths among the 22 ministries allotted to the Congress. However, Jamdar said the advertisements were not an attempt to lobby for any political leaders. “Already a message has gone out that the party wants to distance itself from the historic move. This might hurt it in the 2019 Parliamentary elections,” he said.

First Published: Jun 09, 2018 17:34 IST