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Upset MB Patil and Lingayat Question Haunts Congress in Karnataka

The wounded BJP which is closely watching the developments seems to have activated its people to exploit the situation.

D P Satish | News18dp_satish

Updated:June 11, 2018, 4:22 PM IST
Upset MB Patil and Lingayat Question Haunts Congress in Karnataka
MB Patil, who has emerged as the leader of a group of dissident MLAs, with HD Kumaraswamy. (Photo: PTI)
Bengaluru: It was 1971 and Karnataka (then known as Mysore state) was ruled by Veerendra Patil of the Congress (O) after the split in the party in 1969.

Most Lingayat leaders were with Congress (O) because of their tallest leader S Nijalingappa and his disciple Patil. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was closely monitoring the developments in the southern state. She wanted to take revenge on Nijalingappa for daring to take on her.

Indira Gandhi wanted to topple the government with the help of Lingayats to make it look like the community itself had no faith in their leaders. She chose a minister from Bijapura district B M Patil for that job. A loyalist of Indira, Patil quit the government and a few days later the Congress (O) government fell in Karnataka paving the way for Devaraj Urs government of Congress (I) in 1972.

After 48 years, history is repeating in Karnataka. M B Patil, son of the late B M Patil, has “revolted” against the state Congress for denying him a Cabinet berth, putting question marks over the stability of nascent JD(S)-Congress government in the state. People are wondering if the son would also topple a government like his father. But M B Patil asserts that he is a Gandhi family loyalist and will not go against the party even if it has hurt him deeply.

The party ignoring Patil, a powerful Lingayat leader, seems to have sent a wrong message across the community. Some are openly questioning the rationale behind it. His supporters allege that the non-Lingayat lobby in the party has “brainwashed” high command that Lingayats have voted against the party because of separate religion tag for the community and those who led that movement should be kept out.

As water resources minister, M B Patil was at the forefront of the movement. Interestingly, Ishwar Khandre, another minister who was a vocal supporter of the movement, has also been kept out of the ministry.

Two low profile Lingayats

Rajashekhara Patil and Shivananda Patil have been inducted into the Cabinet in their place. A shocked MB Patil, who was hoping for a powerful portfolio with deputy chief minister post, rushed to New Delhi to meet party president Rahul Gandhi after his dissent threatened the very existence of H D Kumaraswamy government in the state.

According to party insiders, Rahul Gandhi patiently heard him out, but refused to do anything immediately promising a Cabinet berth in near future. After this the “revolt” seems to have fizzled out to some extent, but the larger issues still remains.

According to Lingayat community leaders, the community has backed the party in both Mumbai–Karnataka and Hyderabad–Karnataka regions to a large extent and the Congress bagged 41 seats out of 90 from there. They argue that when compared to 2008, in which the Congress won just 26 seats from the region, this time the Congress has done quite well there despite a high decibel BJP campaign.

Even though a fellow Lingayat B S Yeddyurappa was BJP’s CM candidate, at least 40% Lingayats still voted for the party, they claim.

“Actually the entire coast with no Lingayats voted against the Congress. Majority in the coast are backward classes. The Vokkaligas in the south voted enmasse against Congress. Even the STs vote against us in central Karnataka. They did us in. But some vested interests in the party are running a campaign against Lingayats just to make sure that leaders like M B Patil will not get prominence in the party. It happens every time a Lingayat leader emerges in Congress.

The same coterie and the mindset finished top leaders like Veerendra Patil and M Rajashekharamurthy in the 1990s. This cartel has ganged up to push Patil back and the BJP benefits from that. If the high command understands this, they can win the Lingayats back and beat the BJP in Lok Sabha elections. Yeddyurappa’s story is almost over and the BJP will dump him permanently after 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is the last opportunity for us to get the Lingayats back into the party fold in big numbers” said a senior Lingayat MLA of the Congress from the Mumbai–Karnataka region.

This time 16 Lingayats have won on Congress tickets and these leaders feel that they can improve party’s tally in the Lok Sabha polls.

When contacted, M B Patil said that he had explained everything to Rahul Gandhi and he was hopeful of an amicable solution to the current crisis. He categorically said that there is no question of him joining BJP or quitting the party.

“I am an accidental politician. I joined because of my father’s death. But there are dozens of MLAs who have faith in me. There are lakhs of party workers who are with me. I can’t run away. I want justice for all of them,” he said.

The wounded BJP which is closely watching the developments seems to have activated its people to exploit the situation. Party chief BS Yeddyurappa has said that many Lingayat MLAs are in touch with him.

It was countered by Water Resources minister D K Shivakumar who rubbished his claims saying that no party MLA will leave the party and all the concerns of Lingayats will be addressed soon.

Lingayat leaders in the Congress are also hoping that the party high command will realise its mistakes and give them their due before it is too late.
| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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