Hubballi: As campaigning gains momentum for the assembly by-election in North Karnataka, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is wooing the Veerashaivas to check-mate rival candidates, who belong to the community in most constituencies here.
“The Veerashaivas must vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party if its government has to complete its full term. I am confident that the community will support our candidates in all the constituencies this by-election,” he said recently, while campaigning in Belagavi district.
But many Veerashaiva seers have been quietly backing the Chief Minister already as was evident when the Pancha Peetha seers led by Sri Veerasomeshwara Swamiji of Rambhapuri persuaded Shivalinga Shivacharya Swamiji of Rattihalli Kabbinakanti Matha to withdraw his nomination as a Janata Dal (Secular) candidate from Hirekerur .
The seer's presence in the contest had threatened to split the Veerashaiva votes, which the BJP is banking on and he quietly bowed out thanks to all the persuasion. But the involvement of the Veerashaiva seers with the BJP has angered Lingayat leaders, who are fighting a legal battle for an independent religion tag for their community.
“Bharatiya Janata Party leaders had accused us of taking political mileage when we launched the movement for a minority tag for Lingayats. But now, the Chief Minister himself is raising the Veerashaiva issue to woo them. He is now adopting a divide and rule policy. He should stop politicising the issue and taking undue advantage of it during the byelection,” said Janata Dal (Secular) leader Basavaraj Horatti, who has been in the forefront of the Lingayat movement.
Meanwhile, Jaya Mrithyunjaya Swamiji of Kudal Sangam Panchamasali Peetha has urged the Chief Minister to take the Veerashaiva-Lingayats into confidence instead of raising the issue of caste during the byelections.