Bengalruru, (DHNS): A meeting late on Sunday night between Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha president Shamanur Shivashankarappa and BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa could spell more trouble for the ruling Congress.
Shivashankarappa, the Congress MLA from Davangere South constituency and a former minister, met Yeddyurappa at the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru. The two spent nearly an hour together and, it is learnt, they discussed the controversy over according separate religion status for the Lingayat faith.
Their meeting comes just ahead of a crucial Cabinet meeting scheduled for March 14 where the report of an expert committee recommending 'religious minority' status for the Lingayat faith will be taken up for discussion. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's Cabinet is already divided on the issue with ministers Eshwar Khandre and S S Mallikarjun (Shivashankarappa's son) opposing the report in last week's 3-hour-long Cabinet meeting that was inconclusive.
Shivashankarappa has staunchly opposed the demand to declare Lingayats as a religious minority.
"My stand continues to be that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are one and the same. The dharma should not be divided at any cost," the Mahasabha chief told DH.
Yeddyurappa has been stating that the BJP's stand is same as that of the Shivashankarappa-led Mahasabha.
"I think the government may just go ahead and recommend to the Centre to accord 'religious minority' status to the Lingayats. The Centre will not do anything about it," he added. However, Shivshankarappa claimed that he did not discuss the issue with Yeddyurappa.
Both Khandre and Mallikarjun are expected to go into the March 14 Cabinet meeting sticking to Shivashankarappa's stand - that the Lingayat faith should not be given 'religious minority' tag.
Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat strongman, also has maintained that Veerashaivas and Lingayats are the same. He has accused Siddaramaiah of "trying to divide the community for political gains" ahead of the Assembly elections.
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Yeddyurappa extended an invitation to Shivashankarappa to join the BJP. Yeddyurappa's offer is timed to match the veteran Congress leader's strained relationship with Siddaramaiah over the Lingayat issue.
"Yes, he asked me to join the BJP," Shivashankarappa said, going on to dismiss it with a joke.
"In return, I asked Yeddyurappa to join the Congress," he stated.
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