Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and minister M B Patil. DH file photo.
The State Cabinet on Thursday witnessed heated debate for nearly four hours as two groups of Congress ministers locked horns on whether or not the Lingayat faith must be accorded 'religious minority' status. However, no decision was taken.
A report of an expert committee headed by Justice H N Nagamohan Das was before the Cabinet for approval. The report, submitted on March 2, has concluded that Lingayats in Karnataka are religious minorities. It has also recommended that the state government can request the Centre to declare Lingayats as a religious minority group.
The meeting remained inconclusive as ministers from the Lingayat and Veerashaiva camps faced off, leaving Chief Minister Siddaramaiah wedged in between. The issue will be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting scheduled to be held on March 14.
According to sources, Lingayat ministers M B Patil, Dr Sharanaprakash Patil and Vinay Kulkarni threatened to resign if the Cabinet failed to take a decision on recommending to the Centre that their faith be declared as a 'religious minority'. This was stiffly opposed by Eshwar Khandre, who aligns with the Veerashaiva camp.
Both Lingayats and Veerashaivas have crossed swords on the separate religion issue. The Lingayat camp says they go by the ideals of Basavanna, who they hail as the founder of their religion, whereas the Veerashaiva group is opposed to the idea of declaring Lingayat as a religion as both Veerashaiva and Lingayat are the same.
"There was a detailed, comprehensive discussion on this, but it was inconclusive," Law Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters after the meeting. "No one has properly seen the report. Also, some ministers did not attend the Cabinet meeting. However, the pros and cons of the issue came up and there's more discussion needed."
Before the Lingayat report came up for discussion, the Cabinet approved formulating a sports policy for state.