Former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa on Tuesday said it would be a crime if even one vote from the Lingayat community went to the Congress.“I plead with the members of the Veerashaiva (Lingayat) community in this region… if even one vote from the community goes to the Congress, which humiliated [former chief minister] Veerendra Patil… who won 178 seats, it will be a big crime,” Yeddyurappa said at an election rally ahead of the by-elections to Chincholi and Kundgol assembly seats on May 19.He was referring to the removal of Patil, as chief minister in 1990 a year after the Congress’s landslide victory in the Karnataka assembly polls.The Veerashaiva-Lingayat community accounts for around 16% of Karnataka’s population. Yeddyurappa’s statement came even as Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati was among the leaders briefly banned from campaigning for the ongoing polls last month after she appealed to Muslims against voting for the Congress.Congress leader Eshwar Khandre called Yeddyurappa’s comments laughable. “Veerashaiva-Lingayats are the people who believe in social justice and are not communal. Such statements are born out of desperation as the BJP can see that the community is backing the Congress,” he said.Khandre said the BJP was bringing up these issues as it cannot talk about the country’s real problems. “In their speeches, there is no reference to the BJP-led central government’s performance over the past five years or any such thing. It is for this reason that the party feels compelled to make such statements.” BJP spokesman S Prakash said there was nothing wrong in what Yeddyurappa said. “It is true that the Congress disrespected Veerendra Patil in 1990. It is also true that the Congress sought to divide the Lingayat community only in order to win a few votes,’’ he said.Prakash was referring to Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s move last year to accepted an expert committee’s recommendation for according minority religious status to the Lingayat sect. The Centre rejected the recommendation in December last year.