Basavanand Swamiji, a visually challenged Lingayat seer from Karnataka, is in the race to contest the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections on a BJP ticket from the Kalghatgi constituency. The Swamiji says he is a 'nationalist' while also adding that the Lingayat-Veerashaiva issue is an old debate but renewed by the Congress government for vote bank politics.
OneIndia spoke to Basavanand Swamiji on his opinion about the issue of separate religion status for Lingayat, politics around the issue and pulse of the people in the region.
Basavanand said, "I think Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has miscalculated and misunderstood the issue. He will realize his mistake only after the defeat in the assembly elections. The Congress party thinks the issue will benefit it politically. In fact, people are hurt, ashamed by this move."
Asked about people's response to the issue, he said, "Youth among the Lingayat-Veerashaiva community want the community to be united. A number of people in the rally are not the criteria to judge support for the cause.."
"Customs and thoughts of the community are adjusted to Hinduism. Therefore, they are inseparable from Hinduism," he asserted.
The seer said he was pained by the way Lingayat and Veersashaiva swamijis dealt the issue. "Politicians, political parties do use caste and religion cards during elections. However, I am hurt by the way swamijis on both groups (Lingayat and Veersashaiva) are being used as political pawns. They should have proved maturity while handling the issue. They should not have surrendered the issue to politicians. Only time will decide the fate of Lingayat religion," he said.
He reasoned why he chose to be a nationalist instead of joining groups. Basavanand said, "I reiterate my stand again, I'm a nationalist but as far as Dharma is concerned I believe one should be broad-minded. I believe and follow Basava philosophy. However, after knowing the hidden agendas of Basava tatva followers I prefer to be a nationalist."
"Basava philosophy is based on the principles of 'work is worship' and selfless service to society. Government benefits should reach economically weaker sections, minorities and deserving communities. Unfortunately, Lingayats have fallen into this trap. They should lead a life of dignity and self-respect," he added.
"I wear rudraksha, apply vibhuti (bhasma) and my ashram is named after Basavanna. I will be loyal to Basava philosophy. At the same time, I want the community to be united. I don't want the issue to be used for political gains."
On a final note, Basavanand said, "Independent religion status for the Lingayat community is not an easy process. The Jain community got the minority tag after 60 years of struggle. It's not an issue for the BJP as of now. We don't know how long this issue will take. The hype around the issue will die down if the Congress loses the elections."
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|