Congress call to beat hate politics : In Karnataka, a peace reminder and bid to reclaim Lingayat votes

In Karnataka, a peace reminder and bid to reclaim Lingayat votes
Rahul Gandhi being initiated into the Lingayat ‘dharma’ by the seer of the Murugha Mutt in Chitradurga, Karnataka. :PTI

K.M. Rakesh   |   TT  |   New Delhi   |   04.08.22 : Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday sounded a call to defeat the BJP and end the politics of hate in Karnataka as Congress leader P.C. Siddaramaiah’s 75th birthday celebrations turned into a show of strength ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

A key feature of the day was Rahul’s visit to the eminent Lingayat seer, Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, in an apparent effort to win back the powerful community that was once the Congress’s mainstay in northern Karnataka before B.S. Yediyurappa swung it the BJP’s way.

The Congress has been trying to lure the Lingayat community back by capitalising on the BJP’s sidelining of Yediyurappa.

Shivamurthy accorded Rahul the Linga Deekshe, initiating him into the Lingayat “dharma” or Lingayatism, and gave him an Ishtalinga (a miniature linga) and a sacred thread to wear around his neck.

State Congress president D.K. Shivakumar, among those who accompanied Rahul, told reporters the meeting with the seer was an apolitical one.

Later, at a public meeting held as part of the birthday celebrations in Davanagere, some 270km from here, Rahul slammed the BJP for violating the teachings of Basavanna, the 12th-century philosopher-saint who founded Lingayatism.

“They bow their heads in front of Basavannaji’s statue and steal from the people of Karnataka. Where did Basavanna say that you should steal?” Rahul said.

He alluded to the atmosphere of hate Karnataka has witnessed on the current BJP government’s watch.

“I appreciate the way Siddaramaiahji ran the last government of Karnataka. It gave direction to the people of Karnataka, it had a vision for the people and, most importantly, it believed in the idea of fairness for everybody. That is completely different from what we see under the BJP government of today,” he said.

“The BJP government is dividing people and spreading hatred. Ask anyone, and they would say Karnataka has never faced the kind of violence it is facing today. They will tell you peace and harmony prevailed when the Congress was in power. All the communities lived together happily, and nobody was scared.”

Rahul said the Congress had always respected the language, culture and traditions of the different states and would not impose any idea from the top, if elected.

“For us, your language and culture are fundamental to the future of India, because we believe that all the languages, all the histories and all the cultures make India. The BJP wants to impose one idea from the top and wants to colonise Karnataka,” he said.

Siddaramaiah and state unit president D.K. Shivakumar, both looking to be the next chief minister, turned the event into a show of unity.

In his address, Siddaramaiah denied the “rumours” of differences between him and Shivakumar over the birthday celebrations.

“There are all kinds of rumours that Shivakumar and I are at loggerheads because Shivakumar is apparently against this birthday celebration. But I’m telling you, the ruling party is scared of us, and a section of the media whipped up this rumour. Shivakumar and I are together and we have no differences of opinion,” he said.

“Our challenge today is to throw out this corrupt, communal and anti-people BJP government and return the Congress to power in Karnataka.”

Shivakumar had earlier draped Siddaramaiah in a hand-woven silk shawl and hugged him on stage to loud applause.

Shivakumar asked the audience to take a vow to defeat the BJP. “This state will have peace only when we throw out this BJP government,” he said.

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