Is MB Patil trying to emerge as North-Karnataka's Lingayat strongman?

Cong wants to nurture a young leader to take on state BJP chief B.S. Yeddyurappa who claims to be the champion of Lingayats.

Bengaluru: Is Water Resources Minister M.B. Patil trying to emerge as a strong Lingayat leader in North-Karnataka? The answer seems to be ‘yes’ if the lead he took to hold a meeting of Lingayat leaders and pontiffs of several mutts demanding separate religion status for his community, is any indication.

All these years, the ruling Congress Party lacked a popular leader of the community which has a large presence in 60-80 Assembly constituencies in N-K region. It looks like Mr Patil is trying to fill the gap by taking the lead in attracting Lingayat voters-the main vote bank of the BJP in the region. The Congress wants to break this hegemony by nurturing a young leader to take on State BJP President B.S. Yeddyurappa who claims to be the champion of the Lingayat community.

After the row over according a separate religion tag for Lingayats, the party chose Mr Patil to take on senior leader and president of Akhila Bharathiya Veerashaiva Mahasabha Shamanur Shivashankarappa. Not ready to antagonise his community, Shamanur played safe saying Lingayats-Veerashaivas were like two faces of a coin.

But CM Siddaramaiah who reportedly wants to break the unity of the community to split the vote bank of the BJP, backed Mr Patil who organized another meeting to confuse the community saying Veerashaivas and Lingayats are different. By doing this, Mr Patil is fast emerging as a strong Lingayat leader of N-K region.

Sources close to Mr Patil told DC that he had done what Shamanur had failed to achieve despite having a strong hold on Lingayats in Davangere and adjoining districts. Former IT/BT minister and KPCC Working President S.R. Patil belongs to the Lingayat community but is not as powerful as Mr Patil. In recent bypolls in Nanjangud and Gundlupet, the services of the water resources minister were used to woo Lingayat voters and the ruling party won both seats comfortably. Now, the onus is on Mr Patil is to expand his area of operation in districts in the N-K region to attract Lingayats to the Congress party.

Sources pointed out that in 2008 Assembly polls, the BJP had won the maximum number of seats from Vijayapura, Bagalkot and adjoining districts.

However, in 2013, the saffron party fared badly in these districts as the votes got split between BJP and KJP. The Congress wants to check the saffron party's surge in the coming Assembly elections for which Mr Patil is being prepared to checkmate it.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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