The Karnataka government on Monday accepted the recommendation of the Nagamohan Das committee that the Lingayat community be recognised as a separate religion. The Siddaramaiah-led government will now write to the Centre with the recommendation, The Indian Express reported.

The Karnataka State Minorities Commission formed a seven-member panel under retired High Court judge HN Nagamohan Das in December 2017 to examine the Lingayat community’s demand to be regarded as a separate religion.

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.

The move irked the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has received the community’s support in recent years. Party president Amit Shah had earlier said that the demand of a minority religion status separate from Hinduism was a political game played by the Congress.

Former minister and BJP MP from Chikkamagaluru-Udupi Shobha Karandlaje also accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of dividing the Lingayat for political gains. “The chief minister has humiliated the community; the move will backfire and destroy him,” she said.

However, in January, Congress leader and chairperson of the Election Manifesto Committee M Veerappa Moily said that the Lingayat demand would not feature in the party’s poll manifesto.