Minority tag likely for Lingayats before 2018 Karnataka polls

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah intensified his efforts to capture the centre ground of the Veerashaiva versus Lingayat politics by setting up a seven-member expert committee to examine the demand of the minority status for Lingayats.

The move appears to be a precursor to declaring the Lingayats as a minority community within Karnataka.

While Siddaramaiah’s detractors maintain there is no special provision in the Constitution to create and recognize a new religion, sources close to the CM said the Karnataka State Minorities Commission Act, 1994 allows the government to accord minority status to any community within Karnataka.

“Backroom discussions with legal experts are under way and that’s why the committee was constituted by the Karnataka state minorities commission (KSMC). The probability of Lingayats being declared as minorities before the assembly polls is quite high,” sources added.

The committee, headed by retired high court judge Justice H N Nagmohan Das, may have its first meeting on January 6 or 8. The other members are former chairman of Karnataka Backward Classes Commission CS Dwarakanath, political scientist Muzaffar Assadi, head of Kannada chair at JNU Purushottam Bilimale, Kannada development authority chairman SG Siddaramaiah and journalist Sarjoo Katkar.

The committee will study the five representations received by KSMC: while three representations demand separate minority religion for Lingayats, one argues the community members are Hindus and the other by Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha demands minority religion tag for Veerashaiva-Lingayat.

The committee has been four weeks to submit its report to KSMC.