The Congress party’s move to grant separate religion status to Lingayats was considered a masterstroke before the Karnataka assembly elections, however, results of Karnataka Assembly elections showed altogether a different picture. The Lingayats are traditionally supporters of the BJP, they voted en-masse against the Congress and reduced their tally to 79 from 122. Congress’ attempt to divide the Hindus failed completely. It turned out be a political suicide by the Congress. The fall of Siddaramaiah and the Congress in Karnataka was a result of many misdeeds but the move to grant separate religion status to Lingayat went wrong completely and that is clearly evident in the election results.The Congress in order to keep the BJP out of power extended unconditional support to the JD(S). The JD(S) was quick to catch the opportunity with both the hands and after many days of high voltage political drama the JD(S) Chief HD Kumaraswamy became the leader of the Congress-JD(S) coalition and took oath as the 24th Chief Minister of Karnataka.
Now the ghost of the move of granting separate religion status to the Lingayats has come back again to haunt the Congress party. When all the political drama was going on in Karnataka, the central government was sitting over the proposal sent by former CM Siddaramaiah regarding the separate religion status issue of Lingayat. Now the Centre has sent back the proposal, asking the state government to reconsider it and then come up with a new fresh proposal.
Now, the ball is again in the State’s court headed by JD(S)-Congress coalition, and the government is in a catch 22 situation. If the JD(S)-Congress led government in Karnataka rejects the proposal, the central government would get the credit for sending it back and the Congress would keep on facing the flak for having sent it in the first place. It would also send the message that the BJP is trying its level best to keep the Hindu community united and it is the Congress party who wants to divide the Hindus again and again over caste by creating a separate religion out of the Hindu religion. If the state government sends it back again proposing the same thing, then the Congress would burn all the bridges to bring Lingayat with them on the same boat. It would further make already angered Lingayats angrier with the Congress. It might also affect the voting behavior of the Lingayats in 2019 General elections. Probably, this time more and more Lingayats will vote against the Congress and ensure no return of the Congress again in the state.
It’s the Congress party which is going to face the heat of this move of the Central government because their coalition partner JD(S) would hardly care about the issue because Lingayats are not their vote bank. When the Congress took this decision, the JD(S) was not its alliance partner rather they were bitter political rivals. The JD(S) having no stake in the issue which is more troubling for the Congress. This is yet another issue where the JD(S) gets leverage on the Congress.