Bengaluru: Water Resources Minister D.K. Shivakumar has not only surprised his partymen, but also worried the Janata Dal (Secular) by his unrepenting stand on his statement that the last Congress government in the state lost the May assembly poll due to its meddling in the Lingayat religion issue.
Mr Shivakumar had during his visit to Lakshmeshwara last week met local Lingayat pontiffs to sound them out on why the Congress’ best candidates lost the assembly poll.
One of the pontiffs reportedly told him the party’s attempts to divide the community had cost it dearly. In response, Mr Shivakumar apologised for the Siddaramaiah government’s attempts to get an independent religious tag for the community.
Several Lingayat leaders, including state BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa, Akhila Bharatiya Veerashaiva Mahasabha president Shamanoor Shivashankarappa and several pontiffs welcomed his statement.
And going by sources, a section of the community could even develop a ‘soft corner’ for him after his candid admission. His close associates too defend the Minister , arguing that his statement could, in fact, win the party Lingayat votes in the November 3 by-elections, particularly in Shivamogga, Ballari and Jamakhandi, where there are a large number of voters from the community.
Others, however, believe Mr Shivakumar’s statement was calculated to give him the image of a pan-Karnataka leader , which could stand him in good stead should he aspire to be Chief Minister some day.
But Congress leaders from North Karnataka point out that when the Lingayat religion proposal came up for discussion in the Siddaramaiah cabinet, Mr Shivakumar did not protest while senior Ministers like H.K. Patil walked out. They argue this clearly shows his double standards and his attempt to win the hearts of the Lingayats could end up being a complete non-starter.