Karnataka Congress MLA Shivashankarappa’s demand for Lingayat CM puts govt on the defensive

The 92-year-old Lingayat leader alleged that officials from the community were not provided 'good' posts.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Oct 02, 2023 | 8:00 AMUpdatedOct 02, 2023 | 8:00 AM

Shamanur Shivashankarappa

Akhil Bharat Veerashaiva Lingayat Mahasabha (ABVLM) president and Congress MLA Dr Shamanur Shivashankarappa has kicked up a row by demanding the chief minister’s post for the Lingayat community in Karnataka.

The state’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah sought to play down the controversy by asserting on Sunday, 1 October: “Ours is a secular government.”

In a Veerashaiva Lingayat Mahasabha event in Bengaluru on Saturday, Shivashankrappa said: “The Lingayat community is demanding that one of its leaders be made the chief minister of Karnataka.”

He added: “We would gain nothing from the deputy chief minister’s post. Even Lingayat MLAs have not been given plum portfolios in the Cabinet. The chief minister’s post will be the best for the Lingayat community.”

He also alleged that officers from the Lingayat community were being sidelined in the Siddaramaiah government.

Refuting all the allegations, Siddaramaiah said that his government had never sidelined or ill-treated any official based on their caste or religion.

Shivashankarappa’s statement gained significance as it came a section of Congress leaders, including Minister for Cooperatives K Rajanna, have been demanding three more deputy chief ministers’ posts in the Cabinet.

These demands have led to a discussion in political circles. Congress veteran and MLC BK Hariprasad, too, had alleged that Backward Classes (BCs), minorities, and Dalits have not been offered key positions in the Siddaramaiah government.

Also read: BJP’s agenda is to end Lingayat dominance in Karnataka politics: Shettar

‘Lingayat officers in trouble’

Shivashankarappa’s demand, despite his son SS Mallikarjun holding the mining and geology, and horticulture portfolios in the state Cabinet, has embarrassed the Congress.

“Several officers from the community have not been given good posts. Our community and its officers are facing trouble,” the 92-year-old leader said.

To a specific query on whether he was expecting a Lingayat chief minister, he said the community need not settle for the deputy chief minister’s post.

“Earlier Lingappa (Nijalingappa) and Veerendra Patil were chief ministers. During their tenure, we ran the administration. Now our people have become helpless,” he said.

“Who wants the deputy chief minister’s post? …if possible, become the chief minister or else leave it,” he added.

Also read: Karnataka JD(S) president CM Ibrahim voices dissent over BJP alliance

Siddaramaiah refutes allegations

Responding to Shivashankrappa’s demand, Siddaramaiah told reporters that no one would face injustice.

“Ours is a secular government. There will be no injustice to anyone,” he said.

“The four guarantees, Shakti Scheme, Anna Bhagya, Gruha Jyothi, and Gruha Lakshmi, have not been implemented based on caste and religion. We hold all communities equal,” Siddaramaiah asserted.

The Lingayat community had played a key role in ensuring the Congress’s victory in the Assembly polls. The Congress fielded 46 candidates from the Lingayat community, and 37 of them won.

Before the polls, Lingayat leaders — former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and former deputy chief minister Laxman Savadi quit the BJP and pledged allegiance to the Congress. They, too, played a key role in the Congress’s win.

Though Savadi won from Athani, Shettar was defeated in the Hubballi-Dharwad Central Assembly seat. He was later unanimously elected as an MLC. In the same polls, BJP fielded 69 candidates from the Lingayat community, but only 15 succeeded.

Also read: BJP raises ‘Lingayat-CM’ pitch to counter Congress charge

Shivakumar defends CM

Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC president DK Shivakumar said Shivashankrappa being a Lingayat leader knew how much his community has received.

“Officials naturally expect good posts. However, the government cannot give postings based on caste. We have to consider everyone. The chief minister is trying to strike a balance,” he said.

Shivakumar defended Siddaramaiah saying, “The chief minister has the responsibility to take everyone together. We as ministers should also have common sense.”

“We should give priority to social justice. The government should not put all responsibility on the chief minister. We, as ministers, should take up responsibilities,” he said.

Being a leader of the party and community, Shivashankrappa has been facing a lot of pressure, Shivakumar further said. “Some officers met ministers and requested particular postings. There is nothing wrong in making requests,” he added.

Minister K Rajanna’s demand for three more deputy chief ministers had sparked a row in the ruling Congress. He said that he would write a letter to the high command.

However, AICC General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal wrote a letter to the state party unit leader last week, and appealed to all party leaders, including ministers, not to voice their concerns before the media. He urged them to raise their demands before the party’s high command.

Also read: BSY’s resignation, reservation, Lingayat factor led to poll debacle: BJP leaders

Yediyurappa backs Shivashankarappa

Meanwhile, BJP veteran and Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa welcomed Shivashankarappa’s demand and urged the community members to stand united.

“Shamanur Shivashankarappa is the national president of the Veerashaiva community organisation. I am in complete agreement with him over the demand,” the former chief minister said on Sunday.

“Shivashankarappa’s concern is shared by all leaders in the community. I welcome his statement. In such a situation I call upon the Veerashaiva Lingayat community to awake and stand united,” he added.