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How Important Are The Lingayats In Karanataka Politics?

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In a desperate attempt to woo the non-muslim communities in the poll-bound state of Karnataka, the Bommai government has scrapped the 4% reservations for the Muslims in the state.

In the re-styled dynamics of the quota, the originally Muslim reservation has been divided into two dominant communities in the state, the Vokkaligas and the Veershaiva-Lingayats.

This sudden change in the quota system comes up weeks before the slated elections season, and it cannot be just a coincidence. The BJP’s tryst with such sudden changes before the election has more than one perspective. While the overtly anti-muslim agenda has become more than clear in the last few years, it is also their attempt to keep the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities under their political wings.

4% OBC quota for Muslims scrapped in poll-bound Karnataka | Deccan Herald

Credits – Deccan Herald

The recent decision to increase the reservation for the Lingayats by cutting down that from the Muslim communities is a similar nail in the coffin. Ever since the Lingayat community has been distanced from the Congress party in the early 1990s, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been trying its best to woo this powerful community which constitutes over 16 percent of the population of Karnataka.

Karnataka grants minority status to Lingayat community

Spread across the Deccan region, the Lingayat community is one of the most politically dominant communities in Karnataka. Credits –

Several governments in the past have tried to cater to the political demand of the Lingayat community by asking for a different religion, but little development has happened on it, beyond the election season. One of the strongest cards used by the BJP to get the majority of the Lingayat towards them was by using the veteran leader, Yeddyurappa. One of the stalwarts of the community, his association with the saffron party won them a huge amount of goodwill.

Yeddyurappa’s political status affected the Congress Party. When the leader temporarily moved away from the BJP in 2013, to form a new party, it went on to do more bad than good for the grand old party of the country.

Runs in the family? When Patil felled Patil

Veerendra Patil, a Lingayat, served as a CM from the Congress Party in the early 90s. Credits – Deccan Chronicle.

Moreover, when the state of Karnataka was on the verge of elections in 2018, the Siddaramaiah government undertook an unprecedented task for a political party in India. Congress leader Kulkarni stated that the fight for Lingayats to have a different religion had been going on for centuries. This statement came right after the then-Congress government had brought back the 1,881-page document. The document stated that the then-Mysuru government had removed the status of a separate religion for Lingayats.

This move could not yield full results because of the lack of unity in the government. Several in the government opposed the move of granting a separate religion tag for a caste, which was considered to be a part of Hinduism.

With a new election season, the political relevance of the Lingayats has again come under the scanner. Although the demand for a different religion may not be making rounds this time around, it has become more of portraying Lingayats to be a part of the overarching umbrella of Hinduism. The influence of Yeddyurappa in favour of the BJP or against it, and the seeming benefits of the quota reshuffling activity will only be apparent in May.


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