More Lingayats find their way into Congress list

Siddaramaiah had made a determined bid to woo the influential Lingayat community by recommending the Centre to recognise them and Veerashaiva-Lingayats as a religious minority.

The Congress has fielded 49 candidates for the state Assembly elections from the Lingayat community, which forms about 17% of Karnataka’s population, and is considered a traditional BJP vote base.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had made a determined bid to woo the influential community by recommending the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre to recognise the Lingayats and Veerashaiva-Lingayats (who follow the Basava tatva) as a religious minority.

The strong pitch for Lingayat votes was also reflected in the first list of the Congress that gave more representation to the community this time compared to the previous Assembly elections.

In 2013, the Congress had fielded 44 Lingayat candidates, including five from the Reddy Lingayats. For the May 12 elections, 49 Lingayat candidates are in the fray, including six from the Reddy Lingayat community.

OBC candidates (52) top the Congress list of 218 nominees, followed by Lingayats (49), Vokkaligas (39), SCs (36) and STs (17).

The party has fielded 15 Muslim candidates, four less than the 19 it had put up in the 2013 elections.

Vying for support

On March 19, the state Cabinet had decided to recommend to the Centre to grant a religious minority tag to the dominant Lingayat and Veerashaiva-Lingayat communities, based on the proposal of the Karnataka State Minority Commission. The BJP had countered the Congress move accusing Siddaramaiah of dividing the Hindu community.

Though both the BJP and Congress had raised the pitch for Lingayat support, the political rivals appear to have toned down the rhetoric on the issue with powerful seers voicing scepticism over the benefits the community may get after being granted the minority status.

BJP president Amit Shah visited over 10 Lingayat mutts while campaigning in the state, which is largely seen as an attempt to keep the community support intact.

In a bid to counter Siddaramaiah’s move, the BJP also dug out documents to show that the Congress-led UPA had rejected the Lingayats’ demand for a separate religion in 2013.

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