The Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha on Friday criticised the Karnataka government’s decision to accord “religious minority” status to the Lingayat community, including the Veerashaiva-Lingayats, and demanded that the entire sect be called Veerashaiva-Lingayats, The Hindu reported.

“The sub-clause that only those Veerashaiva-Lingayats who adhere to Basavanna’s philosophy must be dropped,” said Shamanur Shivashankarappa (pictured above), the Mahasabha’s president.

Basavanna was a 12th-century Lingayat philosopher, poet and social reformer.

Shivashankarappa, who is also a Congress MLA, asked the Centre to consider the Mahasabha’s 2013 petition seeking a separate code for the community’s enumeration in the census, instead of the Siddaramaiah government’s recommendation, the Hindustan Times reported.

BS Yeddyurappa, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit, welcomed the Mahasabha’s decision. “I am very happy with the decision, and I thank Shivashankarappa for it,” said Yeddyurappa, who had earlier pledged the BJP’s support to the Mahasabha.

Meanwhile, priests from various sects of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community have voiced their opposition to the government’s decision, The Times of India reported. One of the organisations representing the priests is planning to stage a roadblock on March 27 in Bengaluru’s Magadi Road locality. Priests from more than 40 Veerashaiva mutts, including the Veebhuthipura Mutt, the Shivagange Mutt and the Kuppuru Mutt, are likely to participate in the protest.

“The Congress government is trying to divide the Hindu religion for electoral gain,” said KR Shadakshari Shastry, the president of the Karnataka Rajya Veerashaiva Archakaru and Purohithara Kshemabhiveudhi Sangha. “We will launch a massive protest against the state government’s divisive policy.”