However, four years after the unrest ended, the issue has not returned to center stage in the state. Moreover, with Karnataka Legislative Council Speaker Basavaraj Horatti, who was one of the leading figures of the movement, soon to join the BJP, the unrest is expected to be pushed further to the margins of the political landscape.
However, some associated with the agitation hope that Horatti will continue to be associated with the movement, regardless of his political affiliation.
The fact that Horatti was elected as the first chairman of the Jagathika Lingayat Mahasabha, a body formed in January 2018 in opposition to the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, is indicative of the former minister’s leading role in the movement. Along with top Congress leaders and former ministers MB Patil, Sharan Prakash Patil and Vinay Kulkarni, Horatti had led the fight for recognition of the Lingayat as a distinct religion in the political sphere.
Those at the forefront of the movement attributed its failure to the decision to seek identification as a separate religion for the “Veerashaiva-Lingayat” sect. In the aftermath of the campaign, the fault lines between the mutts of the Lingayat and Veerashaiva communities were sharply accentuated. Those leading the movement are now claiming the status of a separate religion exclusively for the “Lingayat” sect. Chairman of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, DK Shivakumar, had at an event in Lakshmeshwar a few years ago cited Congress support for the agitation for the party’s poor performance in the 2018 parliamentary elections.
Basava Jaya Mrtyunjaya Mahaswamiji of Lingayat Panchamasali Peetha in Kudalsangama said the campaign was independent of any political affiliation. “We are neither against nor for any particular party. The political leaders who joined our movement did so as Lingayats. Horatti joining the BJP was his personal decision, but he will continue to be associated with the movement. Also, the proposal is still pending before the Center,” he told TOI.
Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha executive committee member Lokesh Koravi also dismissed concerns about Horatti giving up agitation. “We hope Horatti will convince the BJP to grant Lingayat the label of separate religion,” Koravi said.
President of Akhila Bharat Lingayat Panchamasali Samaj All India Youth Forum Rajashekar Menasinakai, himself a leader of the Congress, said: “Horatti is one of the most senior Lingayat leaders in North Karnataka and he has cordial relations with all communities. We believe he will continue to fight with us for the recognition of Lingayat as a separate religion.
However, not everyone associated with the commotion is so optimistic about Horatti’s continued involvement. Highlighting the BJP’s antagonistic stance towards those engaged in the movement, they felt Horatti was likely to keep a safe distance. By contrast, Horatti was unavailable for comment.