After months of uncertainty, Karnataka’s Congress government on Monday decided to accept the recommendations of an official expert committee to grant recognition and religious minority status to Lingayats and Veershaiva Lingayats two sub-sects that will be considered under the same religious minority status. It was also decided to forward the same to the central government for notifying under Section 2 (c) of the Central Minority Commission Act.
The decision of chief minister Siddaramaiah-led government comes after months of delay in the matter and was aimed at splitting the Lingayat voter base that has traditionally sided with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader B.S. Yeddyurappa. Lingayats are believed to be the largest community in the state, pegged at around 15-17%.
The cabinet’s decision comes at a time when the Congress is leaving little to chance to check the BJP’s run in assembly elections due later this year. The Congress hopes that the Karnataka elections will serve as an indication to which way the 2019 Lok Sabha polls will go.
Lingayats are categorized under III (B) of the Karnataka reservation list along with Christians, Jains and other communities, entitled for 5% reservation. Communities and minority religions like Buddhists, classified under category II (A) get 15% reservation. Muslims, exclusively categorised under II(B), are entitled to 4% reservation. It is yet to be seen if Lingayats, which has 99 sub-castes that are listed under multiple categories, would get a higher allocation of reservation with the changes in religious status.