BENGALURU: After stoking Kannadiga pride by promoting Kannada in schools and supporting a separate flag for the state, chief minister Siddaramaiah has begun playing the caste card to divide the major Lingayat community by reviving an old demand.

After he recently acknowledged and promised to recommend the demand of a section of Lingayat seers to declare Lingayats a separate religion, Linagayat strongman and BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa hit out at the CM at a public function here on Sunday.

“There is no difference between Veerashaivas and Lingayats and they are very much part of Hinduism,” he said at a rally conducted by the Vishwakarma Mahasabha. Yeddyurappa alleged that Siddaramaiah was trying to politicise a religious issue to divide the community with an eye on the assembly polls. “The Lingayat community will stand united and there was no question of seeking separate religion status,” he added.

He said the Akhila Bharatha Veerashiva Mahasabha will take a call on this and until then, community members should not get carried away but stay united.

On July 18, a faction of the Lingayat community led by the controversial seer Mathe Mahadevi had gathered in Bidar and revived the demand for the formation of a separate religion for the Lingayats. Siddaramaiah, who attended the event, assured them that he would recommend their demand to the Centre.

Ruling party sources said Siddaramaiah was playing the caste card to create a dent in the BJP’s vote-bank since the party has never been able to garner the community’s support since 1990.

This is not the first time Siddaramaiah has attempted to appease the Lingayat community. While last year he unveiled a statue of 12th century social reformer Basavanna at the Parliament premises in New Delhi, earlier this year, he issued an order making it mandatory for all government offices in the state to house Basavanna’s picture.

Early polls?

A day after Siddaramaiah sought to put an end to all speculation regarding an early election, the assurance failed to stop the rumour mills. There were reports that the party high command has directed the CM to go for early polls to coincide with the Gujarat polls. KPCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao rubbished these rumours, saying no such directions had come from the high command. Opposition leader in the legislative assembly Jagadish Shettar said the BJP too has no such information.

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