BJP leader says Centre may not be able to decide on new status for Lingayat and Veerashaiva–Lingayat before Assembly polls

Terming the Karnataka Cabinet’s decision to recommend ‘religious minority’ status for Lingayat and Veerashaiva–Lingayat communities as an “election gimmick”, Bharatiya Janata Party national general secretary and State in charge P. Muralidhar Rao has maintained that this move will affect the Congress not just in Karnataka, but throughout the country.

In an interview, Mr. Rao said this would be seen as an effort by the Congress to divide “not just the community but the entire Hindu religion”. He also hinted that the Centre may not be able to take the call on the matter before the Karnataka Assembly elections as it involved various procedures. Excerpts from the interview.

How does the BJP view the Karnataka Cabinet’s decision to accept a technical committee’s report on granting ‘religious minority’ status for Lingayat and Veerashaiva–Lingayat and recommending to the Centre for notifying it?

It is a politically engineered project that has been done keeping in mind the forthcoming Assembly elections in the State. They have decided the outcome first and accordingly structured the committee as well as procedures. Then they dictated the timeline … The Congress government at the Centre had rejected a plea for a separate religion status in 2013. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah should explain why a similar recommendation is being made and on what basis.

Lingayats and Veerashaivas have been the BJP’s support base in Karnataka. Will the Congress government’s move affect your vote base and help the Congress make inroads?

No. In fact, first it will morally weaken the Congress and then make it politically vulnerable. It is not just the Lingayats and Veerashaivas who will oppose the move. Other communities will also resist this as it is an effort to divide not just the community, but the Hindus. It will affect the Congress’ prospects not just within Karnataka, but in the entire country … This will be the undoing of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah since they feel that they have been cheated in the name of minority religion. The Cabinet has made it clear that their new status should not affect the reservation quota of other minorities.

Will the Centre take a call on the State’s recommendation before the Assembly polls?

First of all, the recommendation has not been made yet to the Centre. Second, they (the State government) too know that it is not possible to decide such a complex issue so quickly just because they hurried through it and made a decision in a shameless way. The Centre is bound to pose queries in a bid to make an informed decision.

The main issue is why the State government indulged in pamphlet writing instead of documenting in a legal way. The entire process will have to be tested from various perspectives, including legal, political, religion, social, and cultural.

How will the BJP contend this move?

How the Congress is taking the Lingayats for a ride will be the subject of our discourse. This will be part of our attack on the performance of Mr. Siddaramaiah who has failed in different fields.

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