M.B. Patil: The man who led the Lingayat movement2 min read . Updated: 27 Mar 2018, 11:05 PM IST
M.B. Patil championed the Lingayat religion demand, which dated back to 1881 when Lingayats were removed from the list of minority religions by then Dewan of Mysuru
Bengaluru: In July 2017, tens of thousands of Lingayats gathered in Bidar district, about 689km from Bengaluru, demanding minority status for their faith. Lingayats, followers of the 12th century social reformer Basavanna, vented their anger at the failure of successive governments to do so.
Having worked in the background for the cause for over a decade, it was at this moment that 54-year-old Mallangouda Basavanagouda Patil or M.B. Patil, a four-time legislator and state water resources minister saw an opportunity to lead the movement.
Patil took up the reins and championed the community’s separate religion demand, which dated back to 1881 when Lingayats were removed from the list of minority religions by the then Dewan of Mysuru.
Hailing from a politically and socially active family, Patil’s youth was spent mostly under the guidance of close relatives, after the death of his politician father B.M. Patil, in 1990. He completed his Bachelor’s in engineering from BLDEA’s ‘Vachana Pitamaha’ Phakirappa Gurubasappa Halakatti College of Engineering, an institution that his family helped found. But his roots lay in the community and its welfare.
“Fifteen volumes of P.G. Halakatti’s work, which included collecting over 22,000 vachanas, were brought out by Patil," said S.M.Jamdar, a retired Indian Administrative Services officer, whose association with the minister spans nearly two decades. Jamdar said that Patil’s contribution to the Lingayat community goes back several years and takes many forms, including bringing to life the community’s lost literature and teachings to the younger generation. Patil is a keen listener and is often in the company of highly educated personalities, he added.
Patil rejected an offer to become state Congress unit president in 2016 to focus on irrigation projects in drought-hit areas. He was actively engaged with the state’s legal team in the Cauvery water dispute before the Supreme Court in 2016.
On Monday, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government decided to accept the recommendations of an expert committee to grant recognition and religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats—two sub-sects that will be considered under the same religious minority tag.
“A historic moment. Victory for Basava Revolution after 900 years. Victory for equality, progressive society and a casteless society. Victory for those who profess gender equality. Victory for 12th century scientific and progressive Basava philosophy," Patil tweeted on Monday.
The victory transcends its social impact. Heading into assembly elections due later this year, Patil decided to lead a movement to not only secure minority religion status for Lingayats but also replace the ‘old guard’ in the state’s political leadership, political analysts said.
“The whole idea of having a single Vokkaliga or Lingayat leader has always been challenged," said Narendar Pani, political analyst and professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. He said that former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa may have won one election but presenting him as the only leader of the Lingayats over a sustained period of time “is bound to be difficult".
Pani added that there is stiff competition to challenge the leadership. “M.B. Patil is certainly leading from the new generation."
However, analysts like Harish Ramaswamy, professor at Karnatak University, Dharwad, said that Patil is merely the face of a plan, most likely hatched by Siddaramaiah and “24x7 politicians from Mysore".