Union minister Ananth Kumar today said the Congress government's move on grant of religious minority status for the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community was "vote-bank politics", and claimed the UPA government had rejected a similar proposal in 2013 saying Scheduled Caste members of the group would lose reservation benefits.
The minister's remarks came a day after the Karnataka Cabinet decided to recommend to the Centre grant of religious minority status for the numerically strong Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community.
"Several demands were made in the past and even the Maharashtra government had also sought a separate religion tag for Veerashiva-Lingayat sect. But the then UPA government in 2013 rejected it," the parliamentary affairs minister told reporters here.
He accused the Siddaramaiah government of playing politics in the name of religion ahead of the Assembly polls.
"The Siddaramaiah is adopting Britisher Robert Clive's divide and rule strategy ahead of assembly polls. The Congress is doing vote-bank politics. This will not benefit them. It will boomerang," he said.
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Kumar further said the Registrar General India (RGI) -- in its letter written on November 14, 2013 to the Maharashtra government and also to All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha -- had said that Veerashiva-Lingayat is a sect of Hindu.
"The demand made by All India Veershiva Mahasabha is apparently not logical and correct. Therefore, no separate code/column was proposed to be assigned for persons returning their religion as Veerashiva-Lingayat during the Census of India, 2011," the letter said.
The Registrar General had also said, "If Veerashiva-Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code/column than Hindu, all SCs professing the Veerashiva-Lingayat sect will lose their Constitutional status, since SC can be only from Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh alongwith their sects."
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, who addressed media separately, reiterated the same. "In November 2013, the then Manmohan Singh government had decided that giving separate religion tag will split the society further and affect SCs professing Veerashaiva/Lingayat Dharma," he said.
The minister alleged that "the Karnataka government is playing politics. The only reasons they are pushing for separate religion status is to stop Lingayat BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister."
The central government's decision on this issue is very clear and there won't be any change in that, he added.
Union Minister of State of Drinking Water and Sanitation Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi was also present at press conference.
The decision to give separate religion tag to Lingayat community is expected to have an impact on the upcoming elections as Veerashiva-Lingayats account for 17-18 per cent of the state's population.