Bengaluru: Lingayat leaders of the BJP have raised the pitch for unleashing the “Lingayat CM” campaign in poll-bound Karnataka to counter the Congress’ narrative to brand the ruling party as “anti-Lingayat”.
The politically influential Lingayat community forms about 17 per cent of the State’s population, mostly in northern parts of the State which the BJP counts as its strong vote-base.
Senior Lingayat leaders Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi quit the BJP over denial of ticket to contest in the May 10 Assembly elections and joined the Congress. .
The ruling party has been on a damage control mode since then with the Congress accusing it of doing “injustice” to Lingayats and being “anti-Lingayat”.
Lingayat leaders from the BJP met at the residence of Karnataka BJP strongman and former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Wednesday evening, where there were suggestions for countering the Congress narrative by projecting that the next CM would be from the community in the event of the party coming to power.
On Thursday, responding to questions from reporters, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai confirmed that the meeting decided to strongly counter the “misinformation” being spread by the Congress on “some issues.”
“There were some suggestions (on ‘Lingayat-CM). Dharmendra Pradhan (the Union Minister who is the Karnataka election in-charge of the BJP) was also there. He (Pradhan) said he would convey our feelings (on the need for Lingayat-CM) to the high-command”.
When a reporter again asked about the Congress narrative branding the BJP as “anti-Lingayats”, the Chief Minister sought to counter him: “You want to keep the issue alive?”
In the last 50 years since 1967, the Congress has not made a Lingayat a Chief Minister except for the nine-month tenure of Veerendra Patil, Bommai said. “Don’t ask this question again”, he told the reporter.
There were several instances of how the Congress treated senior Lingayat leaders, the Chief Minister said, adding that people would not forget how the Congress tried to break the community (demanding a separate religious status to the community) to create a “vote bank” five years ago.
“There is respect, honour and opportunity for all in the BJP,” Bommai said and alleged that the Congress “cheated” Dalits, Lingayats and Backward Classes.