One part of the community demands the minority status for both Veerashaiva and Lingayats considering them the same, while another wants it only for the Lingayats as it considers Veershaivas to be Hindus.
On Monday, the Congress-ruled Karnataka approved the demand for separate religion status for the Lingayat community, fueling a political war of words. A seven-member committee was directed by HN Nagamohan Das, which has submitted the report stating that Lingayat in Karnataka may be considered as a religious minority on March 2. Given the contentious nature of the Lingayat demand, the Congress government should have resisted the temptation to link it with the electoral calculus and waited for the new government to negotiate a consensus on the claim. Yet, Jainism was recognised as an independent religion. He cites the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 which states that only the central government can recognize a particularly religion as a minority religion; given the religion is not recognized as a distinct religion in the state let alone the country. The BJP's has sensationally alleged that the Congress government was trying to divide the Hindu community to stay in power.
The minister's remarks came a day after the Karnataka Cabinet chose to recommend to the Centre grant of religious minority status for the numerically strong Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community. "We will never approve the government's decision", he reiterated after the Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha opposed to the rider that only those who believed in Basava philosophy would get the recognition.
Mr Kumar said the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government had earlier rejected such a plea, saying designating Lingayats as "religious minority" would deprive a large number of Dalits and other backward castes in the groups from getting their "due rights".
The decision that is fraught with political implications is seen as an attempt by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to wean away a section of the community towards the Congress. The BJP's tallest leader in the state and former chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, belongs to the community. Many, however, think the community might still vote for the BJP despite the move.