Hubbali: In a show of unity, several Lingayat leaders on Saturday resolved to back mines and geology minister Vinay Kulkarni who has been targeted by BJP leaders for his alleged involvement in murder of Dharwad Zilla Panchayat member, Yogesh Gouda, and turn the tables on local Member of Parliament, Pralhad Joshi, and his colleagues.
At a meeting held here, these Lingayat leaders charged Mr Joshi with attempting to counter the agitation for separate religion tag for Lingayats and therefore would face protests shortly. “BJP leaders have hatched a conspiracy against the minister as elections are a few months away and because he is in the forefront of Lingayat movement. We have decided to stage dharna in front of the residence of Mr Pralhad Joshi here on December 4. Mr Joshi is interfering in the Lingayat movement by trying to create rift among people of the community,” says Congress leader Rajashekar Menasinkai.
On his part, Mr Vinay Kulkarni accused Mr Pralhad Joshi’s hand in trying to link him with Mr Yogesh Gouda’s murder. The minister said a campaign would be launched against Mr Joshi and other BJP leaders. Lingayat leaders have resolved to mobilize more people from Dharwad district for the rally scheduled to be held in Vijayapur on December 10. Thus, they are trying to provide more support and confidence to the minister by targeting BJP leaders in the rally.
Meanwhile, Dharwad district police are investigating the involvement of Mr Vinay Kulkarni in the murder case following a complaint filed by slain Zilla Panchayat member's brother alleging that the minister was trying to exert pressure on him through loyalists to arrive at a compromise formula. Mr Vinay Kulkarni has been in the forefront of an agitation demanding separate religion status for Lingayats.
He was, however, rattled by several anonymous letters posted to his residence in recent months, full of abusive language and also character assassination of his family members. Such letters have demoralised Mr Vinay Kulkarni’s kin and triggered panic among his wife and children. Raising suspicion over involvement of BJP leaders including Amruth Desai, who is expected to enter into the fray against the minister in the Assembly elections, the minister has warned of legal proceedings against them. These development angered his loyalists within the Congress party and community who are up in arms against his rivals.