K’taka ministers slam Panchamsali seer, Yatnal over quota stir

A day after a big rally by Panachamsalis, a powerful subsect within the dominant Lingayat community in Karnataka, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Monday fielded two of his cabinet ministers — Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh R. Nirani and Small Scale Industries Minister C.C. Patil — to defend him.

Both the ministers came down heavily on Kudalasangama math seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swamy and BJP leader Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, accusing them of ‘dancing to the tune of the Congress’.

Addressing a joint press conference here, Nirani accused the BJP legisaltor from Vijayapura of being the ‘B-team of Congress’ in organising such a rally.

“From the beginning, Yatnal has been attacking CM Yediyurappa. He is not behaving like a BJP legislator, instead he is acting like a Congress leader all through the agitation. Ever since the agitations of the Panchamsalis began, it has become a forum to attack Yediyurappa rather than seeking any relief for the community,” he said.

Nirani further said that Yatnal got elected as an MLA because of Yediyurappa’s charisma and had became the Union minister during late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyee’s tenure due to his support.

“Yatnal has no moral right to criticise the Chief Minister. Let him prove his worth by resigning as a BJP MLA and get re-elected as an Independent from his constituency,” Nirani said.

Referring to Sunday’s rally and Yatnal’s outburst, Nirani maintained that the convention was held with the sole purpose of pressing the demand for 2A reservation but ‘some people’ misused the platform for their selfish and political ends and tried to mislead the community.

“Yatnal and few other leaders made the rally look like a Congress event. It is condemnable. The Chief Minister has already instructed the Backward Classes Commission, which is a quasi-judicial (quasi-government) body, to conduct a study and submit a report on this issue,” he said.

During the Panchamasali Lingayat rally on Sunday, Yatnal had dared Nirani and Patil to resign from their ministerial posts if the CM failed to take steps to include the community under 2A reservation in the OBC list. Hearing this, both had walked off the stage in a huff, as the crowd had booed them during their speeches.

Responding to this, Nirani said that Yatnal had no right to seek his resignation. “I have been elected by the people of my constituency and I became a minister with the blessings of the CM and the party high command. If Yatnal has guts, let him prove it by resiging and recontesting the elections,” he said.

Nirani and Patil both observed that it was not right on anyone’s part to set deadlines for the government, as decisions like giving reservation can’t be taken in a hurry.

“The government needs to follow certain rules and procedures before taking a decision. We need to trust the Chief Minister, and the seers must call off their dharna and stop issuing warnings to the government,” Nirani said.

Panchamsalis form nearly 60 per cent of the Lingayt community and for the last few months, they have been consistantly demanding that their community be brought under the 2A category within the backward classes in the state.

Although Yediyurappa is considered to be the tallest leader of the Lingayat community in the state, he does not belong to this susbsect. Therefore, his team carefully chose Nirani and Patil, who belong to the Panchamsali subsect, to defend him.

The Panchamsalis led by two of its powerful seers – Kudalasangama Panchamasali Peetha seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swami and Swami Vachananand Guru of Veerashaiva Lingayatha Panchamasali Jagadguru Peetha in Harihara – had even launched a month long ‘padayatra’ from Kudalasangama covering a distance of 700 km. The padayatra traversed through various villages and towns that are dominated by the Panchamsali subsect.

The rally was held in Bengaluru on Sunday, throwing traffic out of gear for several hours. Both the seers and several hundreds of people are sitting on a dharna at the Freedom Park, setting March 4 as the deadline for Yediyurappa to announce his final decision on the matter. The community leaders have threatened to launch a ‘fast unto death’ protest thereafter.