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Lingayats Politics: BJP, Congress Trying Tooth And Nails To Woo Community

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Lingayats Politics: BJP, Congress Trying Tooth And Nails To Woo Community

High-decibel campaigning for the Karnataka Assembly polls is on with the ruling BJP and main opposition in the state Congress aiming to bag 150 seats in the 224-member Assembly and woo the Lingayat community which comprises 18 per cent of the state`s population and To install kingmaker. During the tenure of Congress leader Virendra Patil as Chief Minister, the Lingayat community used to back the grand-old party and was considered its vote bank. The Congress lost the support of the Lingayat community when the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi removed Patil, who hailed from the community, from the Chief Minister’s post. The community voted for BJP during the tenure of senior party leader BS Yediyurappa. As soon as the BJP removed Yediyurappa from the Chief Minister`s post, after which the leader quit the party, the BJP lost the subsequent polls.

However, when he came back to the BJP’s fold, the Lingayat community again voted for the BJP and it came to power in the subsequent polls. State`s political history shows that the Lingayat community is the kingmaker. The political power of the community can be gauged from the fact that when in 2021, the decision to change the chief minister was taken, then for replacing Lingayat leader Yediyurappa, Basavraj Bommai, a Lingayat leader, was chosen. Despite removing Yediyurappa from the Chief Minister’s post, the BJP, realizing his influence, made him a member of the party’s parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body of the saffron party. Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah continue to show their respect to him on public forums.

On the other hand, the Congress is also making all out efforts to woo the Lingayat community. As soon as former chief minister and BJP leader Jagadish Shettar who comes from the Lingayat community, decided to quit the saffron party, the Congress welcomed and inducted him into its fold. The Congress welcomed and inducted Shettar and Laxaman Savadi, who quit the BJP as they were disappointed over not getting tickets in the Assembly polls. In fact, the Congress with this move has initiated a campaign to project the BJP as “anti-Lingayat” community party. After Shettar quit the BJP, a meeting was held at Yediyurappa`s house in which it was decided to run a `Lingayat Chief Minister` campaign. Responding to the Congress charges, BJP leaders said that if the Lingayat community wants a Lingayat leader to be a chief minister, it should vote for the saffron party.

During a press conference, Bommai claimed that in the past 50 years, since 1967, the Congress has not made any Lingayat Chief Minister except Virendra Patil for nine months. It is being seen as a clear political message for Lingayat community voters. Political arithmetic of Karnataka is that the Lingayat community, an upper caste which comprises 18 per cent of the state population, dominates the districts of the northern part of the state. Lingayats hold the key to around 100 seats in the Assembly. In the 2018 Assembly polls, 60 MLAs were from the Lingayat community.

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