Lingayats are very important in the politics of Karnataka, who got along with their government, understand the complete maths

Karnataka Lingayat community and BS Yeddyurappa: Lingayat community has a lot of influence on politics in Karnataka and BS Yeddyurappa has a strong hold on this community.

Lingayats are very important in the politics of Karnataka, who got along with their government, understand the complete maths
BS Yediyurappa | Image credits: ANI

Amid speculation of a change of leadership in Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa is receiving huge support not only from the Lingayat community but also from senior Congress leaders of the community and saints from various Lingayat monasteries in the state. Senior BJP Yeddyurappa has a strong hold on the Lingayat community. Recently when he met central BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda, talk of 78-year-old Yeddyurappa stepping down. He himself indicated to step down after 26 July.

Meanwhile, over 100 saints from various Lingayat monasteries across the state met Yediyurappa and offered him support and warned the BJP of dire consequences if he was removed.

Why is the Lingayat community important to the BJP?

Lingayats are the largest community in the state, accounting for about 17 per cent of the population, mostly in the northern Karnataka region. He is said to be a staunch supporter of BJP and Yediyurappa. Lingayats are a Hindu Shaivite community. They consider Basavanna to be a deity, fighting for equality in the society. This community can influence the results of elections in 90-100 of the 224 assembly seats in the state.

Role of Lingayat Maths in Politics
There are more than 500 monasteries in the state. Most of these are Lingayat monasteries followed by Vokkaliga monasteries. The influence of these monasteries increases during elections. Lingayat Maths are very powerful in the state and are directly involved in politics as they have a large number. All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha which is a Lingayat organization with grassroots presence in 22 districts. This is especially in the Lingayat stronghold in northern Karnataka. It has given support to Yediyurappa.
How did Lingayats get away from Congress?

By the 1990s, Lingayats were largely voting for the Congress party to come to power in the state. At that time the Congress was in government in Karnataka with the largest majority of 179 out of 224 seats in the assembly due to Lingayat votes mobilized by Virendra Patil. The Congress was also heavily supported by the Vokkaliga, another influential community.

However, the decision of the Congress at that time forced the Lingayat community to look for an alternative party. Following incidents of communal violence due to the Rath Yatra organized for the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, the Patil government was sacked by the then Congress President Rajiv Gandhi. He was recovering from a stroke. Rajiv Gandhi announced the dismissal of the chief minister before boarding the plane at the Bengaluru HAL airport. This led the Lingayats away from the Congress, which ultimately helped the BJP.

How BJP got Lingayat support?

Seeing the dismissal of the Patil government by Gandhi, the Lingayat community voted against the Congress in the next elections held in 1994, in which the Congress was reduced to just 36 seats. Most of the votes went to BJP. This led to the emergence of Yeddyurappa as the Lingayat face in the state politics and the BJP began to rely on Yeddyurappa's stature in the Lingayat community. 

How did Lingayats and Yeddyurappa harm BJP in 2013?

The BJP was counting on Yeddyurappa to garner Lingayat votes, but in 2013 he was expelled from the party on corruption charges. Yeddyurappa formed his own Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) after being forced to step down as the chief minister. This hurt the BJP as the Lingayat vote split between BJP and Yeddyurappa's KJP in several constituencies and the BJP got only 40 seats compared to 110 seats in 2008 and its vote share fell from 33.86 per cent to 19.95. KJP got 9.8 percent votes. 

Yediyurappa's return to the BJP reinvigorated the party's Lingayat vote base in the 2014 general elections, where the BJP won 17 of the state's 28 Lok Sabha seats.