Modi plays 'Basavanna' card, tries to woo Lingayats

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    In a bid to reach out to Lingayat community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (May 8) heaped praise on 'Bhagwan Basaveshwara', the founder of the Lingayat sect, and lambasted the Congress party for allegedly 'insulting' the 12th century social reformer.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi

    Addressing the first of his three rallies scheduled for today at Vijayapura, which is close to Basaveshwara's birthplace Basavana Bagewadi, Modi said that all Congress has been doing is to divide the society for political gains.

    "Karnataka was reeling under drought, but what were Congress ministers doing? They were in Delhi, they were scheming in Delhi to save their posts. They were in Delhi, planning to divide the society..These ministers have no link with Basavanna or Akka Mahadevi. They only know how to sit in Delhi and divide society," he said.

    Modi then quoted a famous preaching from Basavanna and said the 12th century social reformer had preached about rising above caste lines, but Congress is doing exactly opposite of that.

    "When the entire world wants to know about Basavanna's preaching. The Congress leaders in Karnataka are insulting him. Tell me (Modi asks crowd) should such leaders be allowed to remain in their posts.. Can you name a single Karnataka minister against whom there is no corruption allegation," he said.

    Modi said that in decades of rule after the independence, the Congress never thought of honouring Basaveshwara. He said that Basaveshwara's preaching were an inspiration to the entire world, but Congress never acknowledged it.

    "They (Congress) ruled the country for so many years but it never occurred to them to respect Bhagwan Basaveshwara. It was only after Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power that Basavanna's statue was instituted... We have always believed in Bhagwan Basaveshwara's preachings," Modi said.

    "It was me who inaugurated Bhagwan Basaveshwara's statue in London.. Even this time when i went to London i paid homage to Basaveshwara's statue near Thames," he added.

    Lingayats are traditional vote bank of the BJP. Modi's attempt to woo the community assumes significance, especially at a time when Siddaramaiah-led government approved granting separate religion status to Lingayats. Siddaramaiah's move, as believed by many political experts, was aimed at splitting the BJP's traditional vote bank. Even BJP's chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa is seen a strong Lingayat leader.

    Modi also lashed out at the Congress for politicising the issue of safety of women. He said that Congress is speaking about the matter now, but did not do much about it when they were in power.

    "Congress speaks a lot about safety of women, but what did they do? We have brought in a new law which makes raping of minors an offence punishable by death... Women may be of any religion, we are committed to protect them all...Congress does politics even on that..Daughters are daughters, there cannot be politics over them. Congress practices politics even on such issues," he said.

    Modi said the Congress has no right to talk about women empowerment as it was them who opposed the law on Triple Talaq in Parliament.

    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

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