Chitradurga (Karnataka): The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a major political embarrassment on Tuesday in the run-up to the Karnataka elections after the influential Murugha Matha (or mutt) told party president Amit Shah that it was against the BJP’s plans to unite Lingayat religious institutions against the ruling Congress.

“The government of Karnataka has rightly recommended to the central backward commission (National Commission For Backward Classes ) in this regard," Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the head seer of the theological college in Chitradurga said in a memorandum submitted personally to Shah.

The Matha’s backing of the minority religion status accorded to Lingayats by chief minister Siddaramaiah government goes against the BJP’s plans to use the issue to target the Congress in the run up to the 12 May elections.

Shah has been on a two-day tour of poll-bound Karnataka, where he met with religious leaders from various influential seminaries in south and central parts of the state. The party aimed to unite the Mathas against the Congress and benefit electorally by consolidating the support of the community, believed to be the largest in the state.

The BJP had stood firmly against granting a minority status and alleged that Siddaramaiah was “breaking Hindu society for electoral gain".

But the memorandum said: “It is not a step to divide the community but a measure to unite the already sub-divided sub caste followers in Lingayaths (Lingayats), a religious group having a special tenets or culture on the lines of revolution of Sharanas of 12th century AD Karnataka."

The memorandum added that the minority status to this religion will deliver benefits to its youth both individually and collectively.

The state had introduced some level of ambiguity into its decision to grant minority status to Lingayats. The government had said that Lingayats and those Veershaiva’s who follow Basava Thathva will be considered as part of the new minority religion. The sequence of events led to the All India Veershaiva Mahasabha, a representative body of the Lingayats, to condemn the Congress government for allegedly trying to divide Lingayats and Veershaiva. Some sections of Lingayats had welcomed the move while many others opposed it.

“At the outset, it appears that there is any controversy between Lingayats and Veershaiva Lingayats faith followers. It is a temporary outbreak of emotions of small groups in the followers of both faith. It will not last long," the memorandum stated.

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