The demand for a separate Lingayat religion has gathered huge momentum since the past few weeks.
Now, the Vokkaligas have upped the ante and are demanding a separate religion status.
Former Karnataka Home Minister and BJP leader, R Ashok, said that Vokkaligas have to be recognised as a separate sect.
“Vokkaligas follow different social and religious norms compared to Hindus and must be granted a minority religion status. If Jainism can get a separate religion tag and the government offers to take up the cause of the Lingayats, the Vokkaligas too must be considered a separate religion,” R Ashok added.
Echoing R Ashok’s sentiments, former Karnataka Minister, N Cheluvarayaswamy of the JD(S), on Friday, said that Vokkaligas must be granted minority religion tag.
Both the leaders, however, have said that the final decision about putting forth the demand will be up to the Vokkaliga community religious leader – Nirmalananda Swami, the pontiff of the Adichunchanagiri Mutt in Mandya district.
When TNM contacted the pontiff, he said that he will make an announcement when the “time comes”.
“The current atmosphere is not right for me to make a statement in this regard. When the time comes, I will convey my decision,” Nirmalananda Swami told TNM.
BJP National President, Amit Shah, who has arrived in Bengaluru, is slated to meet the Vokkaliga seer on Sunday.
Vokkaligas, as a social group constitute between 15% to 17% of the state’s population. They are concentrated in South Karnataka districts including Mandya, Hassan, Mysore, Bengaluru (Rural), Tumakuru, Chikkaballaura, Kolar and Chikkamagaluru. There is also a sizable population of Vokkaligas in Chitradurga, Shimoga, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. However, Vokkaligas form more than half of the population in Mandya district.
A source with the BJP said that several members of the saffron party were planning to take up the cause of the separate religion status for Vokkaligas in order to poach the vote bank from JD(S).
“Before the BJP became powerful in Karnataka, Vokkaligas were divided based on subsects. Once the BJP became powerful, the Vokkaligas united. This happened because the BJP had the backing of the Lingayat community. Both Lingayats and Vokkaligas have always been at loggerheads with each other in political matters. This was when JD(S) got the backing of the Vokkaligas,” the BJP source said.
“The BJP inducted SM Krishna, who is a Vokkaliga. Yet JD(S) has the backing of most of the Vokkaligas, which the BJP needs to win the elections,” the source added.