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Why Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi descended on Vijayapura on the same day: Lingayat votes

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The Lingayat stronghold of Vijayapura has become a battleground where both Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi addressed rallies on the same day.

New Delhi: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally at Vijayapura Tuesday. Her presence in Karnataka stood out for two reasons. First, it marked the Congress leader’s comeback in election campaigns after about two years. Second, Vijayapura saw the beginning of the Lingayat movement, a key issue in the upcoming elections.

Basavana Bagewadi, the home of the Lingayat philosopher and social reformer Basavanna, is located about 40 km from the district. Basavanna, the Lingayat revolutionary, challenged the foundations of a caste-based society and the superiority of Brahminism.

Targeting the opposition, Sonia applauded the Prime Minister’s oratory skills, but said, “Speeches cannot fill empty stomachs, food is needed for that”.

PM Modi too addressed a rally at Vijayapura Tuesday where he invoked the name of Basavanna, accusing the opposition of failing his principles and “trying to divide the community on the basis of caste and religion.”

The Lingayat issue

The Lingayat identity has been a controversial topic in the run up to the polls. Chief minister Siddaramaiah had sent a proposal in March to the Centre to accord the Lingayats religious minority status. Many saw this as a move to appease a vote bank that has traditionally supported the BJP.

The Lingayats constitute 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population and can reportedly influence the outcome in 100 of the state’s 224 assembly seats.

Both the BJP and the Congress are out to woo this community which could be the deciding factor in the elections.

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