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PM, Shah Pay Floral Tributes at Bust of Lingayat Philosopher Basaveshwara in London, Bengaluru

BJP has been criticising the Siddaramaiah government's move for granting "religious minority" tag to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats ahead of the polls as an attempt to divide the Hindu community.

PTI

Updated:April 18, 2018, 8:44 PM IST
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PM, Shah Pay Floral Tributes at Bust of Lingayat Philosopher Basaveshwara in London, Bengaluru
BJP president Amit Shah pays floral tributes at the bust of Lord Basaveshwara in Bengaluru on Wednesday. (Photo: BJP Karnataka@BJP4Karnataka)
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London/Bengaluru: Reaching out to Lingayats ahead of Karnataka Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on Wednesday paid floral tributes at the bust and statue of the 12th century Lingayat philosopher Basaveshwara in London and Bengaluru respectively coinciding with his birth anniversary.

Modi extolled the virtues of Basaveshwara, saying he devoted his life towards furthering social equality and empowering the poor. The social reformer was committed to democratic values and believed in the power of debate and discussion, he said in a series of tweets.

The prime minister, who is in London on a four-day visit to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), paid floral tributes at the bust of Basaveshwara at Albert Embankment Gardens on the banks of the river Thames.

"It is an honour to pay homage to Bhagwan Basaveshwara during my UK visit. The ideals of Bhagwan Basaveshwara motivate people across the entire world," Prime Minister Modi tweeted both in Kannada and English along with photographs of the event.

"I am here on the Jayanti of Bhagwan Basaveshwara. During my last visit, I had the honour of unveiling his bust in the UK. Centuries ago, Bhagwan Basaveshwara worked towards social empowerment," he said. Modi was last in London in November 2015.

The event - on the saint's 885th birth anniversary on Wednesday - was organised by The Basaveshwara Foundation, a non-profit organisation-based in the UK that has installed the statue.

In Bengaluru, Shah garlanded the statue of Basaveshwara whose birth anniversary is celebrated as "Basava Jayanti", a public holiday.

Police foiled an attempt by a group to stage a demonstration near the statue demanding a separate religion tag to Lingayats shortly before Shah's visit.

The police said the protesters, claiming to be from a group related to Lingayat community, carried posters demanding a separate religion status and tried to proceed towards the venue near the State Secretariat - Vidhana Soudha.

"They wanted to seek Shah's response to the community's demand. We detained them as a preventive measure," a police official said.

Shah is on a two-day visit to the city from Wednesday as part of the seventh leg of his tour of Karnataka to boost the BJP's prospects in the May 12 Assembly polls.

BJP has been criticising the Siddaramaiah government's move for granting "religious minority" tag to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats ahead of the polls as an attempt to divide the Hindu community.

The State Cabinet had on March 19 decided to recommend to the Centre grant of religious minority tag to the Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats.

The Congress government's decision was based on the report of an expert committee that had recommended considering grant of recognition as religious minority to the Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats (believers of Basava Tatva (philosophy).

Subsequently, the Karnataka Minorities Welfare Department notified the Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats as a religious minority, but said it would come into effect after the Centre's approval of recommendation.

The Siddaramaiah government's move is seen as a bid to cut into the Lingayat vote base of the BJP, which is stated to enjoy their support. BJP's chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa belongs to Lingayat community.

During his visits, Shah has been reaching out to the Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats, meeting their seers and holding meetings with their groups apparently to ensure that the Congress does not cut into its voter base.

Lingayats/Veerashaivas constitute an estimated 17 per cent of the state's population.

The Basaveshwara statue installed at the Albert Embankment is not only the first statue to be unveiled by an Indian premier in the UK, but is also the first conceptual statue approved by the British Cabinet in the vicinity of the Parliament.

The approval was given as a mark of respect to Indian philosopher and social reformer Basaveshwara for promoting democratic ideals, social justice and gender equality.

Basaveshwara (1134-1168) was an Indian philosopher, social reformer and statesman who attempted to create a casteless society and fought against caste and religious discrimination.

India has recognised Basaveshwara as one of the pioneers of democracy and his statue was installed in the Indian Parliament during the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

India had also released a coin and a postal stamp as a mark of respect for Basaveshwara and his contribution to Indian society.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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