They are irked by ‘Lingayat leader’ tag attached to him

Concerned over the growing perception that the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa was a “Lingayat leader”, his supporters on Sunday sought to emphasise his “secular” credentials.

Irked by the labelling of Mr. Yeddyurappa as a leader of Lingayats, both by the media and his political adversaries, his loyalists said he was a leader of all castes and communities.

After a meeting convened at the residence of Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Jagadish Shettar in the midst of the ongoing crisis in the ruling BJP, several legislators belonging to the Yeddyurappa camp expressed displeasure over the caste tag attached to the former Chief Minister. The leaders included Shivanagouda Naik, Raju Gowda, D.S. Veeraiah and B.P. Harish.

“Mr. Yeddyurappa’s appeal is not restricted to one caste. He is a mass leader,” Mr. Naik said. The former Chief Minister had followers even from communities such as Kuruba, Vokkaliga, Lingayat, Lambani, Jain, Vamiki and Bhovi, Mr. Harish claimed.

Mr. Veeraiah, a Dalit MLC, told presspersons, “Mr. Yeddyurappa is a leader of all communities, including Dalits.”

Mr. Harish saw a design behind the portrayal of Mr. Yeddyurappa as a “Lingayat leader”. Some Cabinet Ministers and leaders were trying to divide the party on caste lines, he said, apparently referring to Ministers loyal to Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda.

However, Suresh Gowda, MLA, openly hit out at Labour Minister B.N. Bache Gowda, who has aligned himself with Mr. Sadananda Gowda. Questioning Mr. Bache Gowda’s reported statement that Mr. Yeddyurappa was behind the present round of political crisis, Mr. Suresh Gowda said the Labour Minister was reportedly toying with the idea of joining the Congress and he had no moral right to question the former Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, sources in the BJP told The Hindu there was no division within the party on caste lines. “It is only an ego clash between Mr. Yeddyurappa and Mr. Sadananda Gowda.” However, the BJP acknowledges that the Lingayat community will be the mainstay of the party’s support in the coming elections. Hence the shadow boxing between Mr. Yeddyurappa and Mr. Sadananda Gowda, who belongs to the Vokkaliga community, according to sources.

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