Former chief minister Siddaramaiah on Saturday said he had no regret about the decision on according 'religious minority' status to the Lingayat community, rejecting his party colleague DK Shivakumar’s claim that the decision resulted in the Congress’ defeat in the recent Assembly polls.
"The unanimous decision of the Cabinet (to accord 'minority' status) and the election results have no connection,” Siddaramaiah told reporters here, breaking his silence on Shivakumar’s recent public admission that the decision was "a big blunder."
In a move fraught with political implications, the Cabinet headed by Siddaramaiah decided in March 2018 - just ahead of the polls - and recommended to the Centre that 'religious minority' tag be granted to the dominant Lingayat and Veerashaiva-Lingayat community.
"It was a unanimous decision of the Cabinet. Even Shivakumar was part of it. When I say unanimous, it means that everybody was in on it," Siddaramaiah said, trashing Shivakumar’s claim that not everyone in the Cabinet was favoured the move.
Siddaramaiah said raking up the Lingayat religion controversy would have no bearing on the November 3 bypoll. "It was 6-7 months ago that we recommended to the Centre for granting minority status to the Lingayat community,” he pointed out.
Lingayats/Veerashaivas are estimated to form 17% of Karnataka’s population and considered the BJP’s traditional vote base. It is said that the previous Congress government hoped to eat into the BJP’s vote base by responding positively to the demand for a separate religion.
In the May 12 polls, the Congress went on to lose badly in the Lingayat-dominated constituencies, with a majority of prominent leaders who were actively involved in the separate Lingayat religion movement facing defeat. The BJP used the controversy to spin a narrative that the Congress was dividing society.
"We have not attempted to divide religion or caste and we never will. Where did we interfere with religion? We’ve never entered religious matters. We never have and never will,” Siddaramaiah asserted when asked about Shivakumar preaching that politicians should keep away from religious affairs.
Asked if Shivakumar was trying to undermine or target him, he said: "Who can target me? When I’m not at all at fault, nobody can target me."