Bengaluru: With less than a month left for the Karnataka Assembly elections, politics over the state's Lingayat-Veerashaiva votes finds new impetus with the birth anniversary of Basaveshwara, the 12th-century saint revered by both sects.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to pay his respects to the saint on the banks of river Thames in London, back home in India, a BJP MP said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah cannot be allowed the privilege.
"Siddaramaiah should not be allowed to garland any statue of Basaveshwara throughout the state," said Shobha Karandlaje, the BJP lawmaker from Udupi-Chikmagalur constituency.
She went on to add, "Mr Siddaramaiah split the Lingayat community only with an intention to gain votes and create a vote bank for his party… I request all the Lingayats and Veerashaivas to bar Siddaramaiah from garlanding Basaveshwara's statue.”
The BJP, which traditionally enjoyed support among the state's substantial Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, has been blindsided by the Congress move to provide Lingayats with religious minority status, which helps a community get government grants and other advantages in education.
The Congress move has even found support among the key religious figures in the community. One of them even communicated this to BJP chief Amit Shah during his visit to the state and later, made the letter public.
The BJP, on its part have gone all out to stem the uprising. Over the last month, the BJP leaders belonging to the Lingayat community, including its chief ministerial candidate BS Yedyurappa, have spoken at length, alleging the Congress move is politically motivated.
BJP national president Amit Shah visited a number of Lingayat mutts and met a number of leaders of the sect. The matter has also reached the court.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a visit to London, is expected to unveil a statue of Basaveshwara on Wednesday. The Prime Minister, on Wednesday morning, uploaded a video clip on Twitter, paying his respects to the saint:
On his Jayanti, I bow to Bhagwan Basaveshwara. He has a special place in our history and culture. His emphasis on social harmony, brotherhood, unity and compassion always inspires us.
Bhagwan Basaveshwara brought our society together and gave importance to knowledge. pic.twitter.com/akJPVyuH5D
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 18, 2018
Amit Shah, who is in Karnataka for another round of campaign ahead of the polls, started the day with a visit to a Basaveshwara statue.
Congress is nowhere behind, the party has made similar plans for the Chief Minister.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi offered his tribute to the saint.
My tributes to Basavanna on the auspicious occasion of Basava Jayanti.
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— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 18, 2018
Though Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaih has maintained silence on the BJP’s outburst, his home minister, Ramalinga Reddy, lost his cool. "Who is she? Who is she to tell us? Basaveshwara is not the property of Shobha Karandlaje," Reddy said.
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