BENGALURU: With Lingayats emerging as the second largest bloc of MLAs among 78 victorious Congress candidates, the demand for a bigger role in the coalition, including the post of deputy chief minister, seems imminent.
Sources in Congress said 17 of the 47 Lingayat candidates emerged victorious, just six short of the SC/ST bloc during last week’s polls to the Legislative Assembly. They include a couple of ministers in the previous government. In fact, Lingayat candidates won more than OBC nominees (14) who were given tickets in 50 Assembly constituencies, and Vokkaligas (14) who entered the fray in 46 seats. Therefore, legislators belonging to the numerically significant community are set to press the party leadership for more responsibility in the JD (S)-Congress coalition and also key posts. Besides, these legislators staved off intense pressure from BJP leaders including, Mr B S Yeddyurappa and several seers, but refused to bite the bait and support the Chief Minister. All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha president and veteran Congress leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa, who opposed the previous government’s decision to recommend separate religion status for Lingayats, set aside differences with Mr Siddaramaiah and others to remain loyal to Congress. In case he or any other Lingayat leader had given in to pressure and backed the BJP, the move would have dented the image of the party and enhanced the chances of survival of Mr Yeddyurappa during the trust vote, sources added.
Sources said Lingayat legislators are likely to put forth their demand and support it with the fact that such a move would help the Congress neutralize likely backlash of voters of their community following the resignation of CM B.S. Yeddyurappa on Saturday. Voters of this community across the state consider Mr Yeddyurappa their leader and therefore his exit could upset them resulting in negative voting against the party in future polls. With leaders like former Speaker K B Koliwad blaming the government’s decision to recommend special religion status for Lingayats for poor performance of the party in Assembly polls, the party’s prospects in Lok Sabla polls in 2019 could take a beating, sources added.