Panchamasali Lingayats: No votes until reservation is promised

Elections Politics State Top Story

Panchamasali Community demand their right to reservation ahead of elections in 2023.

The Panchamasali Community has said that they will not cast votes for any political party in the upcoming elections until their demand of reservation gets fulfilled.

H.M. Renuka Prasanna from All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha said, “The members of the community are disappointed with the working of the ruling party. We will look for leadership that promises to work for the benefit of our community and support us in getting reservation. Reservation is essential for us to establish a strong identity in the state.”

The Panchamasali Lingayat community wants reservation under the 2A category of the Backward Classes list.. The leaders of the lingayat community are not happy with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government since their demands of reservation are still unheard.

Chief Minister Basvaraj Bommai promised to discuss the issue of putting Panchamasali Lingayats under 2A category on 29 December 2022, in the cabinet meeting. However, no conclusion came out of that meeting. This has agitated the community against the government for their inability to take action and proceed with the legal procedure.

Prasanna also said, “Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) are in favour of this decision. We believed in the leadership of B.S. Yeddiyurappa when he was the chief minister. Currently, he is the member of the parliamentary board and Central Election Committee. Since, he is not playing any major role in decision making so the matter of reservation is pending for a long time.”

He added that he does not address meetings in public any more. The lack of his presence in government is making the community to feel that BJP might not be a good choice for them.

MP Renukacharya, a BJP and Lingayat leader said, “Getting hold of Lingayat community can be a challenge this time, the only thing that they want is the reservation, I believe that this will be acknowledged this time since this is the only hurdle we’ve to overcome to gain their trust.”

V.S. Ugrappa, spokesman for Indian National Congress (INC), Karnataka said, “Minority welfare is a priority for Congress since always, we support the right to reservation of the Panchamasali Lingayats under the category of 2A. We will make sure that there is more representation of the minorities in sectors like politics, administration and education.”

A senior member of legislative assembly (MLA) of JD(S) said, “Lingayats have played a major role in forming our government in the past, we will provide them with the right to reservation, we want harmony and equality amongst the communities in Karnataka.”

Prasanna added, “It is not that we are against or in favor of a particular party, we just want equal representation of our community in every field. We will not surrender to hoax promises of employment or educational opportunities. Reservation is our key motive and we want parties to take a decision on this in their manifesto.”

The Panchamasali Lingayat community comes under the category of 3B in other backward classes (OBC).  This assures them five per cent reservation in education and employment sectors. The community demands to be added under 2A. This will give them 15 per cent reservation in government jobs. In the last week of December 2022, Panchamasali Lingayats held a massive convention showcasing their strength in Belagavi under the leadership of Kudalasangama Panchamasali Peeth Seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swami.

The sub section of the Lingayat community, Panchamasalis Lingayats count as the largest group amongst all the sections of the community. They carry plough as a symbol because they are associated with farming. The sub sections of Lingayats can be categorized as the Panchamasalis, Ganiga, Jangama, Banajiga, Reddi Lingayat, Sadars, Nonaba and Goud-Lingayats. The rituals are same but they differ in traditional occupations. The Panchamasali Lingayat community is a subset of the upper caste lingayats. In Karnataka, lingayats make up to 18 percent of the state’s population and 60 percent of the total lingayat population.

Despite making up the largest portion of the lingayat community, panchamasalis claim that they have not been given the rights they deserve. According to Article 30 of the constitution, minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions. The leaders of the lingayat community believe  that demanding reservation under the category of 2A is a step towards the vision of a casteless society. They have been agitating and pushing the government to get 15 percent reservation to have equal representation in the politics, education, employment and administration.

In a speech on December 22, 2022, Basava Jaya Mrutyunjay Swamiji, the seer of the Lingayat Panchamasali Peetha, Kudala Sangama, asked the Panchamsali community to look for and elect those leaders who aim to bring the community under the category of 2A and are willing to fight for it. The seer addressed the gathering saying, “These politicians will manipulate us do not cast your vote for anyone especially BJP but to look for the party who wants our community under 2A.”

Pooja Sharma, head of the department, political science at KL International School said, “Reservation is crucial, political parties shouldn’t play with the sentiments of the minorities until they’re sure of it. If one community is demanding reservation, then this might instigate other parties for the same. This should be kept in mind.”