Influential seer supports move to accord religious minority status to Lingayats
Bengalore: Amid a blistering attack by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah against the Congress government in Karnataka, over its move to accord separate religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats in Karnataka, a leading seer has come out in support of the move. While Shah, who was in poll-bound Karnataka on Monday and Tuesday, dubbed the Siddaramaiah government’s move as a bid to divide the Hindu community, the influential Seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru of Chitradurga Mutt differed and said that the minority status would help unite the Lingayat community.

In a letter to Amit Shah, the seer said, “Minority status to this religion will deliver some benefits to the youth of the community - individually as well as collectively. It is not a step to divide the community but a measure to unite the divided sub-castes of Lingayats.” “The government of Karnataka has rightly recommended to the central backward commission (National Commission For Backward Classes) in this regard,” the seer added.

The Chitradurga Mutt’s support to the minority religion status accorded to Lingayats by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah government comes as a setback to the BJP which was planning to use the issue to target the Congress in the run-up to the May 12 elections. In fact, during his two-day tour of the state, Shah called on several religious leaders from various influential seminaries in Karnataka.
The BJP president has slammed the Siddaramaiah government over its move to grant separate religious minority status to Lingayats, alleging it was aimed at preventing BS Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister of the state. Shah said the BJP has always talked of uniting the people of different religions, not dividing them. “This Lingayat decision by Siddaramaiah Ji was only to break up the Hindu community and to prevent Yeddyurappa Ji from becoming the chief minister. But these tactics won't work. The BJP talks of uniting people of all religions, not dividing them,” he said on Tuesday.

While expressing confidence about the BJP storming back to power in the southern state where it has held power before under the chief ministership of Yeddyurappa, Shah said hitting out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, “On one hand, their party president talks about uniting Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians; on the other hand, their CM (Siddaramaiah) is creating a divide between Hindus. Such a major internal conflict is not there in any other party,” the BJP president said.

The BJP chief, who is on a two-day tour of election-bound Karnataka, added, “I want to tell Karnataka people that if BJP wins a majority, we will make Yeddyurappa chief minister.” Yeddyurappa is considered a Lingayat strongman. 

The Karnataka Cabinet had recently decided to recommend to the Centre to accord religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats, in a move seen as an attempt to chip away at the BJP's strong Lingayat voter base.