The Siddaramiah government’s plan to divide the dominant Lingayat community on the eve of the Assembly polls, appears to have hit a road block. This follows the request of retired Justice N Das, who is heading the panel set up to go into the demand for a separate religion tag for the Lingayats, to extend the time for completing the task to six months instead of one, as of now.

Justice Das,incidentally , has argued that one month’s time to submit the report is too short considering that it has been receiving a spate of submissions on the crucial question. As of now the panel has received over 36 petitions both in favour and otherwise, with the number mounting every day.

The ruling Congress which had first encouraged the divide in the community comprising the Lingayat and Veerashaiva sects, was hoping that the panel under the minority commission, would submit its report within a month, well in time for the assembly polls.

The expectation was that a favourable recommendation, if at all, would deal a body blow to the BJP which is aiming to bag 150 of the 224 seats in the state assembly in 2018. Even otherwise, it woud enhance the image of the party among the Lingayat sects, as per the Congress party’s belief, for encouraging the sect’s plea.

The Lingayats have largely been known to back the BJP and its state unit president, Mr B S Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat himself. The controversy has led to a major division among members of the community,much to the delight of the Congress even as the BJP remains on tenterhooks.

Between the Lingayats and Veerashaivas, the former are followers of the 12th century social reformer, Basavanna , who was against idol worship even as he promoted women’s empowerment. The Veerashaivas, on the other hand, follow practices which are akin to the Hindus.

The divide between the two is too sharp even if they come under the same nomenclature of Lingayats. This explains why the Lingayat sect want a separate identity for itself, a demand which the Veerashaivas do not favour.

The Siddaramiah government has been cleverly fuelling the controversy,making the BJP uncomfortable.

The ruling party is going all out to retain power and this is one ploy in which it is involving senior ministers of the Congress with some belonging to the Lingayat sect itself.

This, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Yeddyurappa has gone public to say that he would abide by the stand of the AII India Veerashaiva Mahasabha . Significantly, a senior member of the Congress party, Mr Shamanur Shivashankarappa , heads the main body and believes that the two sects are one.

In a related development, the Karnataka High Court has said that the panel’ s report would be subject to the disposal of the petitions before it. These have questioned the action of the state government and Karnataka State Minorities Commission in examining the demand for a separate Lingayat religion for the sect concerned.