‘In backing the Lingayat agitation, Congress is resorting to religious fundamentalism like BJP’

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With just about six months to go for the Assembly elections in Karnataka, it is fair to say that the BJP is beginning on the back foot.

There are two obvious reasons for this: the party’s chief planks—corruption and “development”—do not have much carry, a) because the B.S. Yediyurappa ministry was notorious for the former, and b) Karnataka is not Bihar or UP.

There is yet a third reason: which is that the Congress government of Siddaramaiah has usurped all the issues that are bread, butter and marmalade for the BJP. Add to that the various factions within the BJP and the party has its cup brimming over with woes.

On top of it all, the demand by Lingayats to be recognised a separate religion, seen by many as having the imprimatur of the Congress, strikes at the heart of the BJP’s assiduously cultivated vote bank.

Manu V. Devadevan who teaches History at IIT Mandi has a piece up on the London School of Economics and Political Science blog, in which he argues that the Lingayat agitation is dangerous, and that the Congress is indulging in pretty much the same kind of religious fundamentalism as the BJP.

“Ever since it came to power in 2013, the government and its spokespersons have left few stone unturned in promoting Kannada chauvinism and Hindi hatred. Kannada pride led to the renaming of Bijapur as Vijayapura, Gulbarga as Kalaburagi, and Belgaum as Belagavi in 2014. More recently, the use of Hindi in the Bangalore Metro signboards was opposed, with the Chief Minister himself making a statement to this effect.

Siddaramaiah turned to the Muslim vote bank in 2015, when he decided to observe Tipu Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the 18th century ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. The Sangh Parivar condemned the decision and cried foul, but the government went ahead with its plans, which resulted in protests and violence.

“The present attempt to win over the Lingayats is laden with even greater dangers, as it involves the mobilisation and radicalisation of a sixth of the State’s population in the name of a demand, which virtually every community or caste in India can make.

“In promoting the Lingayat agitation, the Congress Party is not throwing up a challenge to the BJP or maiming the latter’s loathsome Hindutva politics, as a section of the ‘progressive’ vernacular intelligentsia would have us believe. Rather, it is only stirring up a hornet’s nest by participating in a virulent politics of religious fundamentalism just like the BJP.”

Read the full blog: Lingayat agitation is stirring up a hornet’s nest

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu