Cong hopes to woo Veerashaiva- Lingayats through rally

Cong hopes to woo Veerashaiva- Lingayats through rally

Congress President Rahul Gandhi receives a Bidriware article as a souvenir during his public meeting in Basavakalyan at Bidar. PTI File Photo

The Congress is hoping to win back the confidence of Lingayat-Veerashaiva community as its president Rahul Gandhi will address mega rally at Bidar on August 13.

The party high command has asked all its senior leaders from the state to attend the rally to display strength and unity.

Though it is billed as farmers’ rally, it is being organised by newly-appointed Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president Eshwar Khandre, who hails from Bidar district, as part of the party’s exercise to woo Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, said a senior leader form the party. 

Eshwar Khandre, who strongly opposed the separate religious tag to Lingayat, is son of former minister Bheemanna Khandre, who served as president of Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha for long. Since Khandre family is considered influential among the dominant Lingayat-Veerashaiva community, the Congress top brass is expecting that holding rally in their bastion will help regain the confidence of the community.

Though a few leaders suggested Rahul to visit some religious institutions of the community during his visit, there is still no clraity about it.

Recently, a section of senior leaders from the state met Rahul and explained him the need for holding meetings in  Lingayat dominated areas to assuage the community as part of its strategy to win them back ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. These leaders also told the party top brass that the Congress suffered a set back in the Assembly polls held in May this year mainly due to the decision of Siddaramaiah government to grant separate religion tag for Lingayats.

The number of MLAs from Lingayat-Veerashaiva in the Congress reduced to 16 in the 2018 Assembly polls against 33 in 2013 polls. This time, 38 MLAs from Lingayat-Veerashaiva community, have won on the BJP ticket, explained the leader.

“As a first step, the party made Veerashiva-Lingayat leader Eshwar Khandre as state working president. Now, the party president will address a rally. Through these kind of exercises, we will convince the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community that Congress is not against them,” said a senior leader.

When Siddaramaiah government took the decision to recommend the Centre to grant separate religion tag to the Lingayats, top religious leaders from Lingayat-Veerashaiva community openly called for defeating Congress in the Assembly polls, saying the intention of the government was to divide the community. Though political pundits say Veerashaiva-Lingayats are with the BJP, the Congress has to woo them as they have major vote share in the state, mainly in north Karnataka, said the senior leader.

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