A Lingayat body has demanded the post of deputy chief minister for its president and a larger role in the Karnataka cabinet even as the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) continue to work on the modalities (read cabinet berth sharing formula) of their newly-forged alliance, according to several media reports.
Ahead of HD Kumaraswamy's swearing-in on Wednesday, the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha has written an open letter demanding that the body's president Shamanur Shivshankrappa be made deputy chief minister, CNN-News18 reported.
According to a report in India Today, the letter stated that Shivshankrappa, who won on a Congress ticket from Davangere South Assembly constituency, should be made deputy chief minister as he resisted the BJP's pressure to desert the Congress ahead of trust vote and join the saffron party.
Reward for loyalty
The 87-year-old veteran Lingayat leader is now demanding rewards for his loyalty, as he was opposed to the Siddaramaiah government's move to grant religious minority status to Lingayats, but later set aside his differences with party and contested and won on a Congress ticket.
The demand comes amid speculations that the party, being the larger partner in the coalition, is likely to negotiate hard for the deputy chief minister's post along with a lion's share of the cabinet berths in return for giving up the chief minister's post.
An India Today report claimed that the parties are negotiating for a 20-13 formula; Congress with its 78 MLAs is likely to get 20 portfolios while JD(S) with its 37 MLAs is likely to retain 13 apart from the chief minister's post. Earlier, there were reports that the post may go to Congress strongman DK Shivakumar, who was credited with the post-electoral maneuvers that helped his party transform a loss into a victory. He was also tasked with thwarting BJP's attempt to lure away party's MLAs and keeping the flock together, a job that he accomplished.
Lingayat vs Vokkaliga
However, Shivakumar too is an influential Vokkaliga leader in the state, a fact that could go against him, given that Lingayats are the second largest bloc of MLAs among 78 victorious Congress candidates. The two communities in Karnataka have been at loggerheads even in the pre-independence days.
According to a News18 article, after Independence the Vokkaliga had opposed the merger of all Kannada speaking areas with the old Mysore state fearing Lingayat domination in politics. Vokkaligas are dominant in the old Mysuru area, roughly constituting around 11 to 12 percent of the total population of Karnataka, while Lingayats are are heavily concentrated in north Karnataka, with traces of their population found in south Karnataka too.
After Independence, when the question of reorganising Karnataka arose, the then chief minister of old Mysore state and a tall Vokkaliga leader Kengal Hanumanthaiah had fully backed the unification, undermining the objections raised by his community leaders. Ironically, he was removed from the chief minister's post and a tall Lingayat leader S Nijalingappa became the first chief minister of united Karnataka in 1956, the News18 report said. After that the community had to wait for 38 years to see a Vokkaliga chief minister in HD Deve Gowda.
Now, with his son set to takeover the reigns, amid words of Congress' star leader Shivakumar slated to play an important role, the broader Lingayat community's demand for a bigger role in the coalition, including the post of deputy chief minister, cannot be ruled out.
The fact that the BJP left no stone unturned in wooing a large chunk of Lingayat MLAs to cross over to the saffron party, will make matters worse for the Congress. The Lingayats, who resisted the call to switch, will likely want their share of the pie in return for their loyalty.
Updated Date: May 20, 2018 21:25 PM