Politics over the Lingayat issue is again getting at the centre of Karnataka assembly elections as the issue has bene once again raked up by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah speaking out on the issue.

“We will not allow the division of Veerashaiva-Lingayat communities.Do not worry, seers … We will not allow the use of religion for politics. I am not here to do politics. I am here to take your blessings,” Shah said during an interaction with Veerashaiva seers in Badami earlier in the week.

“I want to assure you that there won’t be any success in dividing the religion. This responsibility is not yours, but ours. As long as the BJP is there, irrespective of which government is in power that there will not be any division in the society. The party is committed to it,” he added.

This is the first time that the issue has been talked about by the BJP. With the Congress government in the state according the Lingayat community religious minority status, even the BJP chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa, who is a Lingayat himself, and a politician who is not shy of openly criticising the Congress has been conspicuously quite – and even evasive, on the issue.

It was as late as this Wednesday, that Yeddyurappa was questioned about the issue. He responded: “I don’t want to comment … From today, in each district and concerned Assembly constituency, we will discuss the issue by taking everyone’s opinion and then the party president will take a call.”

Additional Solicitor General of India Prabhuling K Navadgi said that there has not been any communication or instructions to him about the issue, when the Karnataka High Court asked for the Centre’s opinion on the issue. April 13 is the deadline that has been given to the Centre has to clear its stand on the issue.

The BJP is however in a fix as to how to counter the Lingayat issue. While the BJP would find it hard to applaud the decision of the state government of according religious minority status to the Lingayat community, the BJP would also not want to oppose the move for fear of antagonizing the community which forms a sizable vote bank in a number of assembly constituencies.

Media reports quoting state BJP sources that to get out of the catch twenty-two situation, the Centre would probably not take a stand on the Lingayat issue on the pretext of the model code of conduct, as it has done with on the Cauvery issue.

And therefore, the BJP is attemptting to play down the comments made by Amit Shah and say that as a political party, the BJP is against division of the society in general but not mention that Lingayat issue specifically.

“The official line of the party is that the ‘Lingayat controversy was created to deny Yeddyurappa the chance of becoming CM in Karnataka. Siddaramaiah, for his selfish ends, divided Lingayats and Veerashaivas’,” sources said.

Particularly in the northern districts of Karnataka on the borders of Maharashtra, the Veerashaivas and Lingayats communities forms a strong vote bank for the BJP. But the according of the special minority status for Lingayats by the Congress government in the state is most likely to be an advantage to the Congress according to political analysts.

Analysts said that while the Lingayats will add to the Ahinda (minorities, backward classes and Dalits) vote bank of the Congress, the Veerashaivas, taken to be the more financially affluent and an ‘upper’ caste, would probably continue to support the BJP.

“Now, for the first time, the BJP has been forced to take a stand. This is, in a way, going according to the script where Siddaramaiah can say it’s not me but them (the Centre). He can say that it was a demand by the people and he took care of it,” says Narendar Pani, professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

(Adapted from www,thenewsminute.com)