Karnataka 2018

Lingayat minority tag: Congress eyes votes in north, central Karnataka

Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Mahaswami, Lingayat Panchamasali Jagadguru of Mahapeetha Shri Mutt, Kudalasangama, felicitating Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in Bengaluru on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Congress is hoping that the State government’s decision to accord ‘religious minority’ status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva-Lingayats who follow the teachings of 12th century philosopher Basaveshwara will give it a boost in at least 100 Assembly constituencies in 15 districts spread over north and central Karnataka.

In the present Legislative Assembly, about 40 members of the ruling Congress belong to this community.

Political observers predict that by granting minority tag to the dominant community (which constitutes 17% of the State’s population), the Congress could gain an edge over the BJP in a majority of the Assembly segments in north Karnataka. Lingayats constitute over 20% of the electorate in some constituencies in this region, and traditionally these constituencies have been represented by that community.

The BJP has projected its State president and Lingayat strongman B.S. Yeddyurappa as its Chief Ministerial candidate in the forthcoming elections to garner support from the community, which is largely seen as veering towards the BJP since the 90s. The Congress hopes the move on minority tag will shake the BJP’s assurance of the community as a vote bank, said party sources. The community had played a big role in installing the first BJP government in southern India in the 2008 elections in the State.

N. Sivanna, former political science professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, said the Congress could use this minority tag decision as its main poll plank in constituencies hitherto represented by the BJP. For instance, the Congress could gain the upper hand in Belagavi district, where the community’s population is a deciding factor in a majority of the 18 Assembly constituencies, he said. In Belagavi, nine MLAs belonging to the community were elected to the Assembly in 2013. Of the nine, five were elected on BJP ticket, three on Congress ticket, and one from Karnataka Janata Paksha.

A Congress functionary said that any possible delay from the Centre’s side in approving the State Cabinet’s decision could become a major talking point during the poll campaign and could work against the BJP.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 5:00:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/karnataka-2018/lingayat-minority-tag-congress-eyes-votes-in-north-central-karnataka/article23306211.ece

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