New Delhi, April 9:  In a massive jolt to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ahead of upcoming Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018, nearly 30 Lingayat seers including four powerful senior swamis  decided to extend their support to Congress and chief minister Siddaramaiah for backing their demand of a separate minority religion status. If reports are to be believed, Mathe Mahadevi, a prominent Lingayat seer appealed to the community to support Siddaramaiah and the Congress in the upcoming assembly elections.

“Ours is an apolitical forum and we don’t want to get involve in electoral politics. But, we have decided to support those who supported us,” Times of India quoted Shivamurthy Murugha Rajendra Swami of Chitradurga Murugha mutt as saying.

Earlier on Saturday, nearly 50 pontiffs of Lingayat mutts attended a meeting of the forum in Bengaluru and reportedly agreed to continue their fight till the Centre-led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi accords minority status to them.  The meeting also strongly criticised Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah for allegedly opposing minority status to Lingayats.  Shah had hit out at Siddaramaiah accusing him of dividing Hindus by his Lingayat move.

However, on March 28, the seer of Chitradurga Mutt wrote a letter to Amit Shah and had said that Siddaramaiah’s move to provide separate religion status to Lingayat will unite Hindus. “Minority status to this religion will deliver some benefits to youth of community-individually and collectively. It is not a step to divide community but measure to unite divided sub-castes of Lingayats,” Seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru said in his letter to  Shah.

Earlier last month, the state government had notified the minority religion status to the followers of 12th-century social reformer Basava, amid protests by few communities, in a bid to woo the dominant community of Lingayats (17 per cent), ahead of the state polls.

About Karnataka Elections 2018: 
The Karnataka Assembly polls will be held on May 12 and the votes will be counted on May 15, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat had announced on March 27. There will be a single phase election for the 224-member assembly, like the last time. The notification for the polls will be issued on April 17 and the last date for filing of nomination will be April 24. April 27 will be the last date of withdrawal of candidates. All electronic voting machines will be linked to Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, Rawat had said.

The polls are being seen as politically crucial for Karnataka’s ruling Congress as well as the BJP. It is the only big state where the Congress is in power after losing a string of assembly elections to the saffron party over the last few years.