No effect of Lingayat religion row on my poll prospects: Shamanur Shivashankarappa

One single family has been wielding political clout in Davangere with Akhil Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha president Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his son S.S. Mallikarjun having represented Davangere South and North Assembly constituencies respectively for three terms. Deccan Chronicle spoke to 87-year old Shivashankarappa on the coming polls. Here are excerpts:

Q. Are you contesting polls again at this age when there is a demand to give the ticket to a Muslim or woman candidate in your constituency?
Old age cannot stop me from contesting and  serving the people of Davangere South. I will enter the electoral fray this time and make the rival candidate lose his deposit. I am confident of an easy victory for a fourth consecutive term as people love me.  The reports of my old age have been hyped up by the media.

Q. What is your poll plank this election?
I have undertaken a lot of developmental work in the city during my three terms as legislator. Drinking water supply, drainage facility and other basic amenities have been my top priority. Davangere city will look like Singapore in the next six months or one year. The people from Bengaluru and other cities are sure to visit our city to witness its beauty and its infrastructure development.

Q. You have been opposing Lingayat religion status despite your own party leaders spearheading the movement. Will it have an adverse affect on your poll prospects?
There is no change in my stand that Veerashaivas and Lingayat are one and the same as both people perform Linga Puja. I will not lose any vote due to the stand adopted by me against independent religion status. Though my rival BJP candidate grabbed a small percent of the Lingayat votes, the majority in the community will cast their votes for me. Therefore, the ongoing movement will not have any adverse affect on my victory chances in the Assembly elections.

Q. What is the future strategy of the Mahasabha to counter the minority status campaign for Lingayats?
I am confident that all Congress leaders including M.B. Patil and Vinay Kulkarni, who are leading the agitation for minority tag, will soon change their mind. Now, the movement has also lost its strength and these leaders have stopped organising rallies as they are not getting enough support for their movement. The differences of opinion between both factions on the issue will be set right once Assembly elections are over.

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