(G.N.S) Dt. 15
Discontent and growing differences between Veerashaiva and Lingayat groups within the ruling Congress, the government called off its cabinet meeting scheduled for Wednesday. The meeting was called to discuss the contentious issue of according religious minority status to the dominant community.
Sources say the meeting was cancelled as the leaders within the Congress could not reach a consensus. However, an official in the CM’s office said the timing of the cabinet meeting clashed with the Congress poll panel meeting, and since it was mandatory for CM and other senior ministers to attend, the cabinet meeting was called off. The Lingayat issue will now be taken up at the next cabinet meeting on March 19.
The cabinet had discussed the issue on March 8, but had not come to a decision. There were reports of differences between Veerashaiva and Lingayat ministers in the cabinet. Stating that difference of opinion is a sign of a healthy democracy, chief minister Siddaramaiah had on Tuesday said: “There are no two factions among the cabinet ministers. We will discuss the issue in Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and take a unanimous decision.”
The discontent between Veershaivas and Lingayats leaders in the Congress escalated after a seven-member committee, headed by retired high court Judge H NNagamohan Das, recommended minority religious status for the Lingayat community.
While one section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha headed by Congress leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa has demanded that minority status be granted to both Veerashaiva and Lingayats, the other group headed by water resources minister M B Patil wants only Lingayats to be accorded minority status.
A meeting between Shivashankarappa and BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa last Sunday at the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru has generated more jitters within the ruling Congress as they fear the BJP may find a way to turn the discord within Congress to its advantage. The two leaders spent nearly an hour together reportedly discussing the expert panel report and its implications.
Their meeting came just a few days after some ministers in Siddaramaiah’s cabinet — notably S S Mallikarjun (Shivashankarappa’s son) and Eshwar Khandre — vehemently opposed the committee’s report at the March 8 meeting.
Protests galore across state
Veerashaiva organizations and mutts across the state have been holding protests over the last few days, accusing the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the community for political gain ahead of assembly elections. Some Veerashaiva seers have also threatened to ensure the defeat of Congress MLAs who have been supporting the Congress agenda of dividing the community.
A recent RSS conclave at its headquarters in Nagpur too had opposed separate religion tag for Lingayats on the grounds that it will further divide the Hindu religion. However, it has not gone down well with the Lingayat leaders, who are pushing the government to accord minority status to community. “The RSS has no business to interfere in the issue and they should leave it to community leaders to resolve it,” said JD(S) leader Basavaraj Horatti.
(G.N.S) Dt. 15