Siddaramaiah and Congress had tried its best to divide the Hindus by granting separate religion status to Lingayats in the state. The mainstream media outlets were calling this move a masterstroke. However, the election results gave a totally different picture. It became clear that Lingayats who are traditionally BJP supporters, were totally disillusioned with Congress’ divisive move. They voted en masse against the Congress as a result of which its seat share saw a huge downfall.
Even as the Congress-JD (S) alliance managed to form a government against the electoral mandate, the Centre sent back the proposal asking the Karnataka government to reconsider the Lingayat move and come up with a fresh proposal. Now, the onus is on the Congress-JD (S) government which has put it in a fix. If it takes back its proposal to grant separate religion status to the Lingayats, then the Congress would emerge as the villian in the entire fiasco which tried to divide the Hindus but was stopped by the BJP from doing so. This will also amount to a confession of the political sin that the Congress had committed. On the other hand, sending back the same proposal is a move that will irreparably damage Congress’ fortunes in Karnataka. It will further alienate the Lingayats and one can only imagine the kind of backlash that the Congress will face in the state when it goes to general elections in 2019. It is clear that either way, it is the BJP which is destined to make further gains in the state while the Congress is only going to go down.
The Karnataka government was already in a ‘catch 22 situation’, and now the Centre has given another blow to the Congress-JD (S) coalition. In an affidavit before the Karnataka High Court, the Centre has reaffirmed that Lingayat is a Hindu sect. The move was in response to petitions filed against forming a panel by the Karnataka State Minorities Commission to examine the demands of separate religion status to Lingayats. The Centre stated that the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India in 2011 had conducted a census survey in which the Lingayat sect was included along with various sects under the Hindu religion. It added that the National Commission for Minorities considered the socio-historic perspective of the community in coming to the conclusion that the Lingayats are a sect of the Hindu religion.
The BJP has cleared its stand on the issue with this affidavit. It has made it clear that BJP opposes any move aimed at dividing the Hindus and that there is no question of Lingayats being considered different and separate from the Hindu religion. BJP is clear about the fact that Lingayats are Hindus. From the election results, it can be safely said that this is what the voters in Karnataka and especially the Lingayats wanted.
Since BJP has cleared its stand on this issue, it is now up to the Congress-JD (S) government to take a call on their next move. It can either admit that what the Siddaramaiah government did was wrong and inherently divisive in nature, which will virtually amount to a political confession on its part, or it can stick to its divisive stance and face voters’ ire all over again.