Bengaluru: Veteran Congress leader and MLA Shamanur Shivashankarappa’s statement that the Veerashaiva Lingayat community is getting a raw deal under his party’s government in Karnataka seems to have created a stir within the ruling party and gained support from BJP’s B S Yediyurappa.
Sensing an opportunity to target the Congress government, opposition BJP has accused it of neglecting the numerically large community.
Senior BJP leader and former chief minister Yediyurappa, who also hails from the community, on Sunday welcomed Shivashankarappa’s statement and called on the Veershaiva Lingayats to be united.
The 92-year-old Shivashankarappa, who heads the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, a body that represents the dominant community, made his grouse public during the weekend, which Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has refuted.
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”Many (officers from the community) have not been given (good posts)…our community and its officers are facing trouble,” Shivashankarappa had said.
Responding to a question on whether there should be a Lingayat CM, he said, ”Earlier Lingappa (Nijalingappa) and Veerendra Patil were there (as CMs). During their tenure, we ran the administration, they had kept us good. Now our people have become helpless.”
Further stating that the community need not settle for the post of a Deputy Chief Minister post, he responded to a question saying, ”Who wants a DCM post…if possible become CM or else leave it.”
Shivashankarappa’s statement, despite the fact that his son S S Mallikarjun is part of the government as a minister, has caused embarrassment to the ruling Congress party.
The Veerashaiva Lingayats are said to constitute about 17 per cent of the state’s population, and many in the state Congress are worried that such a statement by Shivashankarappa, a senior leader of the community in the state, may impact the party.
During the 2023 assembly polls, Congress had managed to cause a dent in BJP’s Veershaiva Lingayat support base, with a campaign alleging that that the saffron party had neglected the dominant community.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, rejecting Shivashankarappa’s claim on Saturday, had pointed out that there are seven Lingayat ministers in his Cabinet.
”…how can there be injustice? There is no chance for any injustice. No religion or caste will face injustice under Congress,” he said.
Reacting to Shivashankarappa’s statement, Yediyurappa today said, ”Shamanur Shivashankarappa is national president of Veerashaiva community body. The feelings that he has expressed — I’m in complete agreement with it.”
Shivashankarappa’s concern is shared not only by himself, but all the leaders of the community, he added. ”So, I welcome his statement. In such a situation I call upon the Veerashaiva Lingayat community to awaken, and to unite.”
Responding to a question on Yediyurappa’s support for Shivashankarappa’s statement, CM Siddaramaiah today said, ”Our’s is a secular government, there will be no injustice to anyone.”
Pointing out to government schemes, he said they are not specific to any community or religion. ”We don’t practise caste or community politics. We see everyone equally.”
Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress chief D K Shivakumar said that Shivashankarappa might be under pressure, being the president of the community body, and that he should discuss with the Chief Minister and sort out things.
He said that Shivashankarappa too is aware how many minister positions his community has got and the respect it enjoys. Officers, quite naturally, will seek good postings, but it will be difficult for a government to give postings for officers based on caste, he added.
The chief minister has the responsibility to take everyone together, which he is doing, Shivakumar said, adding that in the same way, ministers too should have the responsibility of following social justice while giving postings in their respective departments, instead of posting officials only from their own community.