With Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah having taken the formidable bite from the forbidden apple and decide to grant separate religious minority status to the Lingayat community, the BJP got a taste of its own medicine.

The lingayats can influence the outcome of around 100 seats in the 224-member Karnataka assembly.

However hoarse, it may cry of Congress' divisive politics, it must be remembered that it was something which was started by the BJP earlier. The Karnataka politics have been fought mainly on caste lines with different big-wigs representing powerful caste blocs; it needs to be seen how the final picture emerges.

The vexed question of giving a separate religious identity to the Lingayats is a very fissiparous issue and has been kept on the back burner by successive governments.

The decision was taken after much deliberation by the Siddharamaih government and has almost split the state cabinet into two. While one group led by Water Resources Minister MB Patil and Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddi – both Lingayats favored the move, another group led by Municipal Administration Minister Eshwar Khandre and Horticulture Minister SS Mallikarjun, both Veerashaivas opposed the move.

Justice Nagamohan Das commission has ruled that the Lingayats and the Lingayat-Veerashaivas (Veerashaivas who follow Basavanna) are a distinct religious group and hence must be accorded minority status.

BS Yeddyurappa supports the Mahasabha decision

Though the BJP is in favor of giving a minority status to Lingayats, it opposed the move to divide the community into Veerashaivas and Lingayats further. According to a spokesman for the party BJP leader Malavika Avinash, it feels that both the clans are the same and it is for them to decide the issue united.

However, BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa himself the tallest Lingayat leader has toed a different line from the party position and said that he supports the decision made by the Mahasabha decision.

On the charge that the state chief minister is playing divisive politics, Congress has said that there is nothing new with the decision and it was Yedurappa himself who first put forth the demand.

By accepting the Justice Nagamohan Das, the state government has put the ball in the center’s court, and the Central Government finds itself in an unenviable position.

BJP calls the move akin to British policy

“Playing with fire,” this is how the BJP is describing the latest action of the state government and compared it to the British modus operandi of ‘Divide and rule.’

Recent actions by the state government like having a state flag and the latest move to give spate religious identity to Lingayats does have fissiparous outcomes, and the country cannot risk another secessionist movement in South India. The BJP has also questioned the move by the state government at the fag end of the term and has asked why this was not taken in the past four years of power.

Who are Lingayats and Veershaivas

Lingayats follow the teachings of the 12th Century social reformer and mystic Basavanna or Basaveshwara who himself was a Brahmana by birth but revolted against the rigid caste-based Hindu practices and advocated a casteless society. The Veershaivaas, on the other hand, are followers of Lord Shiva and also consider themselves as Lingayats. However, they are considered a part of the Hindu religion.

However, Lingayats do not want the Veershaivas to be included with them since it will lead to them also getting the benefits which the Lingayats will now accrue by way of educational and job benefits. The state government has cleverly taken the wind out of the Veershaiva movement and also put the BJP in a fix. With recent electoral reverses in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh by polls, this is one issue which the BJP just did not want on its platter.