Bengaluru: All is not well in the ruling Congress party over the proposal to accord separate religion status to the Veerashaiva community.
Several Congress legislators contended that the move was unwarranted when Assembly polls are due to be held in 9-10 months, with Lingayats likely to suspect that it was a plot to divide their community.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had announced his support for the proposal saying he would recommend religion status to the Centre.
Several legislators with whom Deccan Chronicle interacted, expressed their ire against Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayaraddi, holding him responsible for creating a fresh controversy and feared it may have a bearing on the party’s poll prospects. The legislators are planning to meet Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in a day or two to impress on him the need to give the controversy a decent burial just like the much-publicised caste survey, being done at a whopping cost of Rs 180 crore.
The legislators questioned the timing of the controversy when the Congress is riddled with problems like the unrest in coastal Karnataka, the Parappana Agrahara central jail expose, transfer of honest and upright bureaucrats (DIG D Roopa) and introduction of the anti-superstition bill. Instead of completing pro-people welfare programmes, the government is mired in an unnecessary row, they asserted.
Lingayat voters are in a majority in Gadag, Bagalkote, Vijayapura, Dharwad, Haveri, Koppal, Bidar and other districts and can make or mar the prospects of candidates. The government's decision is likely to be seen as a sinister design by the CM to divide the community and break into the vote bank of the BJP. It would be like giving ammunition to the saffron party to make a fresh attack on the Congress which is trying to hold on to Lingayat-dominated constituencies it won in 2013, said the legislators.
They wondered why Mr Siddaramaiah was giving importance to Mr Rayaraddi for his ‘misadventure’ to divide the Lingayat community which has remained united all these years. The Chief Minister is reportedly being influenced by a few ministers who feel the Lingayats can be divided by assuring them a separate religion identity. However, barring a few, the majority of Lingayat pontiffs are against this decision as they feel it amounts to government interference in community affairs.
“How will the government react if a similar proposal comes from the Vokkaligas and Kurubas?” wondered a Congress source.
A minister on the condition of anonymity said it would be ‘suicidal’ for the Congress if it tries to divide the Lingayats with an eye on the Assembly polls. None in the past had dared to do this and it would be better for the Chief Minister to keep away from this controversy, he felt.
Some Congress leaders fear that State BJP President B.S. Yeddyurappa will give a political twist to the episode to paint the Congress as anti-Lingayat for trying to create a divide in the community.
Sending five ministers across the state to collect opinions about the separate religion status is not at a good idea at a time when the majority of districts are reeling under drought due to failure of the monsoon, they added....