Skip Lingayat issue during campaign, Cong tells leaders

Skip Lingayat issue during campaign, Cong tells leaders

Apprehending that granting of separate religion tag to the Lingayat community may boomerang on the party in the Assembly elections, the Congress high command has suggested its Karnataka leaders to avoid mentioning the contentious issue in poll rallies.

With a section of leaders from the state unit informing the high command that the Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue may prove negative for the party in the polls, the central leaders want to tread cautiously on the issue, said a senior Congress leader.

Besides, an analysis of the reactions to the issue on social media done by the party also clearly demonstrates the public outpour against the state government and the Congress, the leader said.  

Though the Congress wanted to seek votes on development issues such as distribution of free rice, construction of roads and providing drinking water, only the Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue was dominating the media as well as public discourse for the past several weeks, said the leader.

The Congress top brass has also suggested the state leaders to maintain the line that the state government has no role in granting separate religion tag to Lingayats and, it just forwarded the request that came from the community itself.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has been criss-crossing Karnat-
aka ahead of the May 12 polls, also deliberately avoided talking on the issue during his meetings.

Even during an interaction with traders in Davangere on Wednesday, the Congress chief ducked a question on separate religion tag to Lingayats and, asked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to answer it.

To contain further damage to the party, some of the state leaders have also suggested the   top brass that Rahul should intensify his tours in the Lingayat-Veerashaiva dominated areas, mostly in north Karnataka and visit their religious institutions to send a message that the Congress is not against them.

"With BJP national president Amit Shah giving a spin to the issue by stating that the Congress wanted to divide the community to prevent state BJP president B S Yeddyurappa (a Lingayat leader) from becoming the chief minister, we have to counter it strongly," said the leader.

Of the total 224 Assembly segments in the state, Veerashaiva-Lingayats have a sizable presence in around 125 constituencies, mostly in Central and North Karnataka regions.  "Though Veerashaiva-Lingayats are considered as the major support base of the BJP, in the 2013 Assembly elections, as many as 21 from the community won on the Congress ticket. So, we can't summarily dismiss the community members as BJP voters," the leader opined.

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