Lingayatism, Assembly Elections, and Political Drama

The on-going struggle of Lingayats to make Lingayatism a separate religion is being used by strong politically driven minds as a weapon in the game of vote bank politics yet again. With the Karnataka Assembly Elections scheduled on 12th of May, we can see the plethora of communalism and corroding essence of secularism in India.

Lingayatism is often considered a Hindu sect, sharing beliefs with Indian religions. However they want it to be recognised as a separate independent religion because the original dharma of Lingayatism under Basava, guru of the Lingyats rejects many values of Hinduism such as authority of the Vedas, the caste system, Hindu beliefs such as reincarnation and karma etc. He not only professed worship of one God, unlike Hinduism, but also opposed worshipping idols, and the idea of temples; he considered the human body as a temple, with the soul as its central part. Over the years, elements of Hinduism subtly got merged in Lingayatism until Basavanna’s teachings and scripts were found again and it was realised that unlike Hinduism or Veerashaivism , Lingayats believed in universal force and not praying to stones, there were ideals of gender equality etc. present which were neglected by Hinduism.

As far as the political scenario is concerned, it called for drama in the name of religion. The Lingayats have a strong presence in the state, especially marking majority in the Northern area of Karnataka. The community accounts for approximately 17% of the total population. There have been nine chief ministers from the community. Hence marking it as a vast vote bank is the imminent priority of parties, even if it is at the expense of secularism.

With Assembly elections around the corner, both the Presidents: Rahul Gandhi from Congress, followed by Amit Shah from BJP met Pattadevaru, president of Anubhava Mantapa, a spiritual parliament created in 12th century in Bidar to discuss the issue. There are obvious political intentions behind the rendezvous with the leader and other seers from the community so as to turn around the elections in favour of their own parties by putting up favourable candidates and securing the Lingyats as their vested vote bank. Congress tried to woe the Lingayats by showing them similarity of ideals between Congress and Lingayats. Meanwhile, BJP wants to make sure that their older voters do not vote against them. This clearly sheds light on how religion and religious status is being used a pawn by politically strong players in order to win elections even at the cost of secularism.

Over the last 15 years there has been great solidarity among the Lingayats for being considered as a separate religion and seeking the status of religious minorities. Nagamohan Das on March 2 stated that Lingayats in Karnataka could be considered as religious minority and the state government on 19th March accepted suggestions of Nagamohan committee under section 2D of the state Minorities Commission Act. However the proposal needs to be sent to the Centre for the final approval.

The advantage of recognising it as an independent religion is that it will help root out evils like caste-based distinctions which leads to at least one more section of the society to uphold the Constitutional value of Equality. In fact Hinduism and preachers of Hinduism should draw inspiration from Lingayatism and drop evils like caste system, gender discrimination etc.

However there in an internal war between the Swamijis and the followers. While a majority of the followers want Lingayatism as a separate religion, the mutts haunted by their insecurity to lose control over the people and institutions are against the idea of independent religion. The seers of the religion do hold great power in influencing the way in which the Lingayats vote. This implicit conflict is leading to give the elections a dramatic shape, wherein the traditionalists might vote for BJP, while stringent followers of Basava would tend to vote in favour of Congress. Both the parties are pulling every politically attached string and making crucial decisions in order to win the elections. While BJP has shown potential interest in Yeddyurappa as a Candidate for Chief Minister, it could back out at the end once they have won elections by claiming age as a factor, while at the same time Congress is branding its identity as Lingayat in Karnataka.

Hence this complex situation in Karnataka has once again thrown light on the fact that despite of constitutional values of secularity, equality etc. major political parties will even play on communal lines and divide communities in order to gain power. The mixing of power, religion and politics marks a horrible recipe in Karnataka called the Assembly Elections.


Picture Credits: TheWeek

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