Lingayat and Veerashaivas
Statue of Lingayat philosopher Basavanna | Representational image | @kanimozhi | Twitter
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Sources confirmed that a meeting is scheduled for 17 June in Bengaluru where senior Lingayat and Veerashaiva leaders are expected to iron out their differences.

Bengaluru: The Veerashaivas and the Lingayats are burying their differences to get better representation in the Karnataka coalition government.

There are currently four members of the communities in the JD(S)-Congress cabinet, which has 27 ministers. Together, the two parties, along with the BSP and Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party, have 117 seats in the 224-seat assembly. The coalition government can induct seven more ministers.

Sources confirmed that a meeting is scheduled for 17 June in Bengaluru where senior Lingayat and Veerashaiva leaders are expected to discuss and iron out their differences.

The Veerashaivas and the Lingayats, often bunched together as one community because of their devotion to Lord Shiva, are said to be two different groups, with a major difference being the latter’s aversion to being identified as Hindu.

The Veerashaivas are said to date back over 5,000 years, and the Lingayats are the ideological successors of the 12th-century social reformer Basavanna, who shunned Brahminical orthodoxy and caste divisions.

Within these differences, several factions propound different arguments — the Veerashaivas believe both fall under the Hindu umbrella, the Lingayats seek independence from Hindus as well as the Veerashaivas, while a third faction believes both comprise one community and together deserve the ‘separate religion’ tag.

The Siddaramaiah government’s separate religion tag seemed to precipitate this divide as a section of Veerashaivas protested against the decision’s sole focus on Basavanna followers.

‘Compromise’

But the differences are taking a backseat in light of the low representation of the two groups in the state cabinet, which is dominated by the Vokkaligas, the community of JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda.

Also, pushing them closer is the rejection of calls to elevate Lingayat leader M.B. Patil and Akhil Bharat Veerashaiva Mahasabha chief Shamanur Shivashankarappa as deputy chief minister.

Senior JD(S) leader and MLA Basavaraj Horatti, a Lingayat, said it was a fact that they would be able to get a better foothold in the government if they “join hands and compromise”. “Naturally, if both groups come together, there will be more chances for us to get representation in the cabinet,” he added.

Horatti alleged a game of ‘divide and rule’ was under way to exploit the differences between the two groups.

“On one side M.B. Patil and I have been kept aside, and from their (Veerashaiva) group Shamanur and (former state minister Eshwar) Khandre have been excluded. This only goes on to show that there is an attempt to play divide and rule”, he said.

There’s been deep resentment among Lingayat MLAs from north Karnataka over “the raw deal” handed to them in berth distribution by chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) chief.

‘Sensitive about power’

Political analyst A. Narayana of Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, said the Lingayats and the Veerashaivas were “very sensitive” about the positions of power the community holds, “be it in bureaucratic circles or in the cabinet”.

“They are extremely sensitive about what their members get or don’t get. So, the fact they are not represented in good numbers in the cabinet would certainly be a factor that will make them come together or negotiate for a compromise formula,” he added.

Congress leader M.B. Patil, who was instrumental in securing the separate religion tag for the Lingayats, told ThePrint that he had not demanded any post for himself but was “hopeful that things will be set right very soon”.

“I am the face of not only the Lingayats, but also north Karnataka. I have made my impact and have worked very hard as a minister for the state. I have conveyed what I want to say to the Congress high command,” he added.

‘Three conditions’

Retired IAS officer S.M. Jamdar, who was at the forefront of the separate religion movement as well, has made it clear that the Lingayats will back the Akhil Bharat Veerashaiva Mahasabha if three conditions are fulfilled.

“The first condition is that there can be no compromise on ‘Basava Tatva and the basic principles of the religion. This also includes a consensus that Basavanna was the founder of the religion,” he said.

“The second condition is that they should be ready to change their name to Lingayat Mahasabha,” Jamdar added.

It is, however, the third condition that has caused a deadlock: That leaders who led the separate religion campaign be given high-ranking posts in the overhauled Mahasabha, including Patil as national vice-president and Basavaraj Horatti of the JD(S) as its state president.

“They reached out to us for a compromise last week, but we have clearly stated that there can be no compromise on the core principle. They have seen how we have shown them the results after we formed the Jagathika Lingayat Mahasabha,” Jamdar said. “We have helped the Congress gain, rather than lose, as is being portrayed. Now they want to come to us, we are in talks,” he added.

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