New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) The Ministry of Home Affairs today virtually washed its hands of the issue of granting religious minority status for the Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community in Karnataka saying the issue is beyond its jurisdiction and the Ministry of Minorities Affairs would look into it.

An MHA spokesperson also said a decision on the issue is not expected anytime soon as the model code of conduct has been in force in Karnataka, where Assembly election is due next month.

The ministry has received a communication from the Karnataka government recommending grant of religious minority status for the numerically strong community.

“However, the subjection is beyond the jurisdiction of the MHA and hence forwarded to the Ministry of the Minorities Affairs, which is the competent authority to take a decision on it,” the spokesperson told reporters here.

Asked whether the MHA has given any opinion on the recommendation of the Karnataka government before forwarding it to the Ministry of the Minorities Affairs, the spokesperson said the question does not arise as it was not an issue to be examined by the MHA.

“Examination, consideration and decision on the subject will be done by the Ministry of the Minorities Affairs,” he said.

In a decision fraught with political implications in poll-bound Karnataka, the state government had last month decided to recommend to the Centre grant of religious minority tag for the numerically strong Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community.

Lingayats/Veerashaivas, estimated to form 17 per cent of the state population, are considered the BJP’s traditional voter base.

The move is seen as an attempt by Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah to wean away a section of them towards the Congress, though the BJP maintains it would backfire badly.

The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the numerically strong and politically influential community, amid resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.

One section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has asserted that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same and religious status be given to them.

The other group wants it only for Lingayats as they believe that Veerashaivas are one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.

Of late, some Lingayats have also stated that they were open to having the Veerashaivas under their umbrella, but that Lingayat nomenclature was non-negotiable.

The Karnataka State Minority Commission had formed a seven-member committee, headed by retired high court Judge H N Nagamohan Das in December last year that submitted its report on March 2.

The committee in its report has said “Lingayats in Karnataka may be considered as religious minority.” The Veerashaiva/Lingayat community owes allegiance to the 12th century “social reform movement” initiated by Basaveshwara and has a substantial population in the northern parts of the state.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.