Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah on Monday said that the Karnataka government’s decision to grant the status of a separate religion to the Lingayat community was aimed at preventing state leader BS Yeddyurappa from becoming the chief minister, PTI reported.

“This Siddaramaiah government has brought this proposal, not because it has love for Lingayats, but to prevent Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister,” Shah said at a coconut growers’ convention in Tiptur subdivision of Tumakuru district. “I want to tell the people of Karnataka that if BJP wins a majority, we will make Yeddyurappa the chief minister.”

Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat strongman, has also called the Siddaramaiah government’s move an “election gimmick” and accused it of dividing society. Shah said that the Siddaramaiah government’s proposal, which was rejected by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2013, merely aimed to create confusion among the people. The BJP president said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi should point fingers at Siddaramaiah before accusing the saffron party of dividing people.

Shah claimed that Siddaramaiah was playing the “divide and rule politics of the British” because the Congress was trying to save its “sinking ship”. “The Siddaramaiah government has proposed to accord minority status to Lingayats, but why did it not do it earlier? Because that time, there was no need for gaining votes,” the BJP president claimed.

Shah also asserted that farmer suicides in Congress-ruled states like Karnataka were on the rise, while they had reduced in states governed by the BJP. “If you vote for Yeddyurappa to become the chief minister, I assure you that farmer suicides will come to a halt in Karnataka,” Shah claimed.

The Karnataka Assembly elections are due by May 2018.