Taking decisions and resorting to actions by pandering to the narrow minded interests and sentimental demands of the people for temporary gains in election politics, leading to far reaching consequences, has become the biggest weakness of our democracy.
The latest instance of that is the move of Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka to recognize Lingayat community as a religious minority and submit the file for the final approval of the Central Government. It is true that the green signal the Congress government in the state has given is for a long-standing demand of the Lingayats who make up to 17 per cent of the population, just before the assembly elections. Lingayat leaders have welcomed the decision. Siddaramaiah might for once, have the gratification of killing two birds with one stone. First one is to trap the BJP by passing the ball into the Centre’s court. Modi government will not be able to take a decision by bypassing the RSS that strongly opposes considering Lingayats a separate religion outside Hinduism. Alongside, former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa who is the kingpin of BJP in Karnataka belongs to Lingayat community.
The second benefit dreamt by the Congress is the significant portion of Lingayat votes that are crucial in hundreds of constituencies. At the same time, it is also a fact that Veerashaivas who belong to the Lingayat community are against demanding a separate religious tag outside Hinduism. Two members of the Siddaramaiah cabinet have come out against the decision of the Congress. Lingayats demand a separate religious status claiming to be the followers of Basavanna, a 12th century social reformer, who opposed the authenticity of the Vedas and Hindu religious rituals. The stance of the Centre regarding the issue which is capable of landing entire Karnataka into unrest and chaos is yet to be seen. The prospect of a decision on the issue acceptable to all, is quite doubtful. There is one truth that gets revealed as days pass by. As for the Sangh Parivar which aggressively puts forth Hinduism as the only culture and way of life that is capable of unifying the entire nation, Lingayat’s separate religious status will pose a tough challenge. Earlier, Indian Constitution had considered even the Sikhs as a sub-sect of Hinduism. It was forcefully amended with a yielding to the organized resistance of the Akalis. The situation now is such that even their personal laws are not similar to that of Hindus. If the separate religious identity of the Lingayat community is recognized, there is a definite possibility that similar demands would be raised again and again. There is already a large group of activists who strongly claim that Dalits are not Hindus.
Although this can be expected to give short-term advantage to the Congress, what will happen in the future remains to be seen. It was solely with electoral victory in mind that Manmohan Singh's UPA government approved the bifurcation of Andhra. Although the very idea of Telengana's separation had no economic or cultural justification, the Congress yielded to the pressure from the regional party TRS, hoping, through the alliance with them, to get a big win in the to-be-formed state, but after Telengana state became a reality, the party got totally isolated. TRS switched loyalty, and the Congress could not make any impact, either in Telengana or in Andhra. Now TDP under Andhra chief minister is fighting against the BJP government for something the UPA government had promised it, i.e. special status to the state. Even then, TDP has not expressed any willingness to ally itself with the Congress. It may be worthwhile to recall the events in 1986 and what Rajeev Gandhi did as prime minister then: he unilaterally opened the door of Babari Masjid which was closed for decades, to the Ram worshippers. And the nation has seen the plight to which that devious trick which the Congress used in that process, has taken not only that party but even the country. Every one, the Congress, the BJP and all others, have to learn the lesson that if we venture to sacrifice national interests for winning a few votes, it will bring irreparable losses and loss of peace.