The Lingayat Mahasabha on Sunday asked the Karnataka government to write to the Centre by December 30 to recommend a minority status for the community, the Hindustan Times reported. The community wants to be recognised as a religion separate from Hinduism.
Lingayat leader Mate Mahadevi on Sunday said the community would begin an agitation across Karnataka if the deadline is breached. Their demands also include the recognition of Basavanna, the sect’s 12th-century founder and social reformer, as the state’s cultural ambassador.
“Elections are due next year and once the model code of conduct comes into force it will not be possible for the government to do so [send its recommendation to the Centre],” Mahadevi was quoted as saying. “Hence, I call on the chief minister [Siddaramaiah] to make the recommendation by December 30.”
State ministers MB Patil and Vinay Kulkarni were also present at the event where Mahadevi was speaking, and supported the demand.
Lingayats, who are classified as Other Backward Classes, are considered the single-largest community in the state, with their population estimated at anywhere between 11.5% and 19%. Since their vote is widely believed to be decisive in 110 out of the 224 Assembly constituencies, Lingayats are also considered politically powerful.
In July, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said that he would forward the demand for minority religion status to the Centre if the community was unanimous in its demand. The community has been divided over the separate religion status, as the Veerasaiva group associates itself with Hinduism.