Bengaluru: Amidst an intensified campaign for a separate religious status to Veerashaivas-Lingayat faith, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Sunday said the government has nothing to do with the rallies being organised in this regard.
With resentment within the community over projecting Lingayats and Veerashaivas as the same, he clarified that the stands taken by few of his ministers on the issue as "their personal".
"The government has nothing do with the rallies," Siddaramaiah told reporters in Chitradurga.
Responding to a question about ministers participating in the rallies and taking sides, he said "can't ministers have their own opinion. Is there anything that they have to listen to what I say? On matters concerning the government they consult me, on matters not concerned with the government, I can't tie their mouth", he said.
As assembly elections are due earlier next year, the demand for a separate Veerashaivas-Lingayat religion status is gaining ground among the community, concentrated largely in the northern part of Karnataka.
Leaders and pontiffs who are propagating that Lingayats are separate from Veerashaivas, today held a large public meeting in Kalburgi as a show of strength.
While one section under 'Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha' has demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other wants it only for Lingayats as they believe that Veerashaiva is one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.
The Veerashaiva-Lingayat community that pays allegiance to the 12th century "social reform movement" initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state.
They also have presence in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.
The BJP and several sections of the Hindu community are opposed to the move to give Veerashaiva-Lingayat separate religion status and have accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of assembly elections due early next year.