Bengaluru: Disputing Water Resources Minister D. K. Shivakumar's claim that he was not in favour of according separate religion status to Lingayats, former chief minister Siddarmaiah broke his silence on the issue for the first time on Saturday by asserting that the decision to recommend minority status for Lingayats and the Congress’ defeat in the recent Assembly elections were entirely unrelated issues.
On the sidelines of the joint press meet here, Mr Siddarmaiah reacting sharply said, “It was a unanimous decision of the cabinet, in which D.K. Shivakumar, Dr Sharnprakash Patil, M.B. Patil, Vinay Kulkarni, Basavaraja Rayareddi and S. S. Mallikarjun (the last five were prominent Lingayat ministers) were present. It is a collective decision and none opposed then when the cabinet decided to accord minority status to Lingayats about eight months ago.”
Mr Siddaramaiah argued strongly that it was wrong to interpret that the party lost Assembly polls for favouring the separate religion status for Lingayats. “There is no link between the two. When the state government took the decision, many welcomed it. I don't know why Mr Shivakumar is saying this now and I also do not want to analyse this now," he snapped.
In a strongly worded rebuttal, Mr Siddaramaiah said that the Congress did not attempt to divide a religion or caste and never will. "Where did we interfere with religion? We have never entered religious matters. We never have and never will," Mr Siddaramaiah said angrily answering a question about Mr Shivakumar's recent remarks that politicians should keep away from religious affairs. Defending his government's decision strongly, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader said that he had no regrets over the decision. Asked if Mr Shivakumar was trying to undermine or target him, he shot back, “Who can target me? When I am not at fault, nobody can target me.”