Karnataka: Can the Lingayat movement be compared with Patidar agitation?
After the Gujarat battle, focus has now shifted to the Karnataka Assembly elections to be held in early 2018. This is Congress's largest remaining bastion. Like the Patidar movement in Gujarat, the Lingayat movement in Karnataka might become a deciding factor. The Lingayats are demanding a separate religious status; so, as a minority community, they would be eligible for certain quota benefits. Here's more.
Who are the Lingayats?
Lingayats are believed to be followers of the 12th century social reformer-philosopher Basavanna. He founded this sect to counter the dominance of Brahmanical values and a social system ridden with caste restrictions. Though they follow Hindu God Lord Shiva, they protest Hindu social practices like caste discrimination and wearing the sacred thread. Their main tenets are human freedom, equality, rationality and brotherhood.
Are they part of the Hindu fold or not?
As they have an organized/structured movement, almost like a cult, Lingayats are said to have broken away from the Hindu fold. What then complicates the issue? The cult reportedly shares a strong relationship with Veerashaivism. Also a Shaiva sect, Veerashaivism's followers believe that Lingayats are part of their fold; Basavanna merely reformed Veerashaivism. But, unlike Lingayats, Veerashaivas accept Vedic texts and caste discrimination.
What are the parallels with the Patidar agitation?
Considering the way Lingayat movement is shaping up, parallels can be drawn with Patidar agitation. Both communities traditionally support BJP. However, in Gujarat, Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel allied with Congress. Similarly, in Karnataka, Lingayat cause is being espoused by Congress's MB Patil and Vinay Kulkarni. In Gujarat, Congress made inroads in Saurashtra through Patidars; similarly, through Lingayats, Congress may be targeting North/Central Karnataka.
What is the stand of political parties?
BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa is reportedly upset that the party failed to capitalize on Lingayats' demand. Now, Congress has taken up that cause. Meanwhile, BJP is trying to portray Yeddyurappa as the most credible Lingayat leader there is. Further, Yeddyurappa has denied there is anything similar between the Patidar and Lingayat movements. Currently, BJP supports Veerashaivas' stance.
What does it mean for Karnataka politics?
If Lingayat movement continues, it might go the Patidar way. Congress may have earned brownie points after the Siddaramaiah-led state government referred the matter to the minorities' commission. However, if a consensus on the issue is reached, it could extinguish political rhetoric and remain a cultural/religious issue. The next two months will be crucial in swaying the 17% Lingayat population.