The decision of Sri Siddeshwara Swamiji of Jnana Yogashrama, Vijayapura not to accept the prestigious national award, the Padma Shri with due respect to the Union Government for selecting him for the honour is undoubtedly personal. As he himself clarified in his hand-written letter to the Prime Minister that a spiritual being need no award but only for those with great accomplishments in various fields. Truly spiritual indeed!
But, at least some political observers in Karnataka were served with food for thought when the Bharatiya Janata Party led NDA government at the centre announced the names of the selected personalities for the Padma awards on the eve of Republic Day, as it coincided with the ongoing for and against campaign for separate religion status for the Lingayat community. While many BJP leaders are lingayat mutts are in support of the demand, which comes to limelight time and again and particularly during election-time, some of the leaders are arguing that the proposed religion tag should be ‘Veerashaiv-Lingayat’ as they believe that both Veerashaivas and Lingayats are same.
Looking into the recent past, majority of Veerashaiva-Lingayats joined hands and supported their community leader B.S. Yeddyurappa in the last assembly election bringing the BJP into power on its own in 2008. Mr.Yeddyurappa, regarded as BJP’s war horse, was sworn in as Chief Minister then. With the State due for assembly elections and the BJP, which is desperately looking forward to dethrone the Siddaramaiah led Congress government and return to power, is espousing Veerashaiva-Lingayat cause again for the fact that the community is one of the economically, politically and socially strongest communities in Karnataka, particularly in Northern Karnataka region.
The anger among the community members against Congress for unceremoniously removing late Veerendra Patil, who as KPCC president brought the party back to power in 1989, as Chief Minister in 1992 is still visible in some camps, although it was diluted in the wake of issues of corruption coming to light during the BJP government and infighting among power-hungry leaders within the party which saw three chief ministers in the first ever full-fledged BJP government in five years. The BJP is again wooing this Veerashaiv-Lingayat community to realize its political ambitions, a fact which is not exception to Congress or JD(S), or any other party when it comes to lure the voters on religious and caste appeals.
The centre choosing for Padma award, Shri Siddeshwara Swamiji who is one of the most respected saint among several other Veerashaiva-Lingayat mutts in the State and country for his spiritual way of life, is being viewed another step to lure the community and encash their votes at the hustings. Swamiji has declined to accept it without any contempt but for spiritual reasons, as understood by all those who have watched his way of living for long. In fact, there were doubts if the Swamiji would accept the award the moment the news broke out, which eventually came true. With that different political and wishful inferences are being drawn by both in BJP and Congress circles and other parties. And the possible inferences are anybody’s guess.
However, the issue in all its probability will be kept alive till elections and sometime thereafter as the 7-member expert committee set up by the State government, in its last sitting about a fortnight ago has sought six months time to study and submit its report. This has provided relief to both the BJP and Congress and other parties in its own way, as none of them would be blamed for not supporting the religion tag for the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, even as the voters are aware of who is on which side.
About the Author: Vijaykumar Patil is a senior journalist with nearly 27 years of experience in India’s national English print media. He took voluntary retirement to work as freelancer. Presently, he stays in Belagavi.
Disclaimer: The article is written by the author in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of AllaboutBelgaum.com.