Congress supports the Lingayat movement to widen its voter base
The Indian state of Karnataka witnessed a new political drama during the first week of August. Like a good drama, there was lot of sparring and a surplus of contested positions. All of these are being done to acquire votes in the upcoming state assembly polls scheduled to be held between April and May 2018. The tussle for votes are between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress, two major Karnataka parties, from members of the influential Lingayat community. Lingayats make up about 17 percent of the state's voting population.
The Lingayats have long demanded a separate religion tag other than Hinduism for its Veerashaiva or Lingayat Dharma.
The demand for recognizing the community as a separate religion was previously made by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha but met with failure. The Veerashaiva Mahasabha, regarded as the community's representative body, had in 1990, approached the Karnataka High Court seeking a separate and distinct core exclusively for the Lingayat community. This petition was dismissed by the court on the basis that census instructions to all enumerators to permit religions to be recorded as they are reported by respondents. It means that all religions enjoy an equal opportunity to be recorded. In such a scenario, providing any code simply becomes an administrative convenience. The matter is made more interesting by a reply given by Pratibha Kumari, the Assistant Registrar General of India to the Mahasabha's application to Registrar General of India in 2013. She referred to the court order passed in 1990, along with works and reports of the British writers to provide a cause for rejection of the Mahasabha's demands. The reply said that the census conducted during India's colonial times refers Lingayats to belong to the Hindu caste.
— INC_Tharoorian (@Tharoorian_INC) August 1, 2017
Members of the Lingayat community have rarely voted for the Congress. This movement has made one of India's oldest parties to make gains in what was previously staunch BJP vote bank. The Congress has now publicly made its stance known when it accepted the contentious demand of Lingayats to be a distinct religion tag other than Hinduism. The Congress has B.S. Yeddyurappa, an influential Lingayat leader as its chief ministerial candidate. Yeddyurappa is an extremely powerful Lingayat leader who can garner the votes on election day. Hoping to widen its static vote bank away from India's backward classes and minorities.
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- The Wire