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Lingayats vs Veerashaivas: Congress has no magic wand and the ghost will continue to haunt it

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To stop Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from coming to power the Congress offered the post of CM to Janata Dal (Secular) to form the government. With this move, the grand old party succeeded in the first round of battle for power. As per the tradition, the Congress has to allocate portfolios keeping in view regional and community representation. But this time the challenge is far from easy.

Lingayats vs Veerashaivas: Congress has no magic wand and the ghost will continue to haunt it

Former CM Siddaramaiah is already under attack from his colleague M Veerappa Moily for "wrong caste management" after the humiliating loss in the elections. Moily said the Congress should not have raised the Lingayat issue before the polls.

However, in the post-election scenario, the Congress cannot ignore the issue as mere a 'lesson'. According to recent developments, it is clear that the ghost of Lingayat /Veerashiva will continue to haunt more during the distribution of portfolios. Of course, the Congress is in alliance with the JDS, but the party has to form an alliance of different sort with Lingayat /Veerashiva leaders in the party. Most importantly, 2019 general elections are fast approaching. If they want to beat the BJP in the general election, they have to pacify both the camps.

Meanwhile, Veerashaiva Mahasabha wrote a letter to AICC regarding deputy CM post. Mahasabha has demanded at least five berths for the community including a Deputy Chief Minister post for its president Shamanuru Shivashankarappa. The Mahasabha has pointed that "of the 78 seats Congress has won, 16 belong to the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community and there are four MLAs of the community in JD(S). They are the largest community among those elected and they should get the biggest share in power," the letter said.

Surprisingly, the list includes M B Patil's name, who is not in the good books of Veerashaiva/Lingayats, for his support to independent Lingayat religion. But there is no representation from Lingayat forum as prominent leaders have lost the elections. According to sources, few Lingayat leaders opposed MB Patil's name to Deputy CM post and threatened to resign if the party takes such decision.

G Parameshwara's name has been finalized as the first Deputy Chief Minister. According to reports, MB Patil, SR Patil, and HK Patil are the front-runners for the second Deputy Chief Minister. If anybody from the Lingayat camps gets the top post, again the Congress party will be sending a wrong message to the community.

Senior political analyst Mahadeva Prakash said, "Bavaraj Rayareddy, Vinay Kulkarni, Sharan Prakash Patil, who lost the election, all had better positions. But why did they fail to build the party in North Karnataka? So, on what basis the Congress should give important portfolios to Lingayats in the government?".

"With Siddaramaiah's backing SR Patil may get Deputy CM and a portfolio nothing more than that," Mahadeva Prakash said.

"Even if the Congress party gives CM post to the Lingayat candidate the community will not support the party. Still, the community accepts BS Yeddyurappa as leader," he added.

In Mumbai-Karnataka region, the BJP has 30 out of 50 seats and the Congress 17, down from 31 it had won in the previous 2013 assembly polls. While out of 36 seats in central Karnataka region, Congress' tally dropped to 13 from 19, the BJP made steep gains by winning 15 seats, compared to three it won in 2013. In Hyderabad-Karnataka region also, BJP increased its tally from 10 seats to 15, even as Congress retained a lead with 21 out of 40 seats.

At this juncture, the Congress has no magic wand to turnaround its prospect in North Karnataka. The fact is the Congress has run out of options to win over Lingayats after the assembly elections.

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