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Congress’ bid for religion tag to K’taka Lingayat community sparks debate ahead of polls

The Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha on Tuesday said it would not accept the Karnataka cabinet’s decision to recommend to the Centre granting religious minority tag to the dominant Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community.

Calling the cabinet decision the “height of injustice”, Mahasabha President Shamanur Shivashankarappa, also the ruling Congress MLA, said a meeting has been convened on March 23 to discuss the next course of action.

Calling Veershaiva dharma a ‘very ancient one’, he expressed discontent over cabinet decision on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at Davangere after meeting senior Veerashaiva seers, he said, “We have called a meeting of Veerashaiva Mahasabha on March 23; prima facie itself this (decision of the cabinet) makes it clear that it is the height of injustice.”

“Our feeling is that Veerashaivas and Lingayats are one. Veerashaiva Mahasabha will not accept yesterday’s (Monday) cabinet decision,” he added.

In a move fraught with major political implications in poll-bound Karnataka, the state cabinet had yesterday (Monday) decided to recommend to the Centre to grant religious minority tag to the dominant Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community.

The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the numerically strong and politically-influential community, amidst resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.

One section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same.

The other group wants it only for Lingayats as they believe that Veerashaivas are one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.

The decision that is fraught with political implications is seen as an attempt by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to wean away a section of the community towards the Congress.

BJP chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa hails from the Lingayat community.

Earlier on Tuesday, breaking his silence on the issue, Yeddyurappa, also the state BJP chief, urged Mahasabha leaders to call for an emergency meeting and come to a decision.

Stating that BJP has been saying it would abide by the decision of the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha, he said his party would make its stand clear, based on the¬† Mahasabha’s decision.

“I will not make any statement in urgency, let them (Mahasabha) call an emergency meeting, discuss the pros and cons and come to a decision and guide,” Yeddyurappa said after a meeting with senior party leaders.

“Siddaramaiah has cleverly done what has to be done and come to a decision on the issue. But today Veerashaiva¬† Mahasabha has to come to a decision…following their decision and guidance, BJP will make its stand clear,” he added.

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