How a separate Lingayat religion could impact national politics

Lingayats have a substantial presence in Karnataka and can play a make or break role in assembly elections.

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How a separate Lingayat religion could impact national politics
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Electoral commitment reigns supreme in Indian politics but the desperation that politicians in Karnataka have shown for electoral benefits is as good as playing with fire. Pampering the idea of a separate religion and participating in rallies organised by the Lingayat community leaders have the ability to impact national politics irrevocably.
Lingayats have a substantial presence in Karnataka and can play a make or break role in assembly elections. Even former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa belongs to this community. 
The birth of religions has never been an easy process in any part of the world as it involves the process of differentiation and codification which is always marked with social upheaval and violence.
New religious ecosystems are always linked to an idea of God, society and salvation which stands in opposition to the existing practice. But in Karnataka, the Lingayat churning has acquired an overt electoral colour. Caste reservations or linguistic reorganisation of states in the past too, have been products of powerful agitations, but the demand for a separate religious status through a political agitation and mass rallies is a first in post-independent India.
Hinduism or as it is sometimes referred - Sanatan Dharma - is one of the five acknowledged religions in the Constitution of India. The Constitution provides freedom to practice and propagate religion in the country and this is enshrined as a fundamental right. In this context, the movement and protest in Karnataka is neither illegal nor outside the civilizational ethos of the subcontinent. The difference this time is that politicians in Karnataka have decided to play with a social movement within Hinduism whose attempt was to establish an egalitarian society opposed to the prevalent caste structure and upper caste practices.
Hinduism over time has seen the rise and fall of various sects which are primarily described as sampradayas. In this context, Lingayats say that they have been different from 12th century AD and also want to be differentiated from Veershaivas, who they feel are using the word Lingayats far more loosely. Broadly, reform movements through centuries have made an impact on Hinduism, but eventually become part of the larger Hindu family. The ability to absorb and live peacefully with differences is one of the strengths of Hinduism.
With political pandering, it opens up a Pandora's box whose impact can be constitutional, civilizational and political. It will be constitutional because any addition will have to be legislated and the matter will undergo legal scrutiny.
It is civilizational, because after Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, Lingayats will become the fourth religion to be born in India out of a legal and political process and not through social negotiation with other religious cosmologies. For example, the birth of Sikhism was bloody and led to sacrifices by the Gurus who led the faith and subsequently codified it.
The political impact of the Lingayat demand would be far more devastating. It will reduce the demographic and numerical strength of Hinduism in Karnataka and secession will open the door to other sects to be recognised as a separate religion.

It can be argued that the strength of Hinduism has been its ability to absorb dissent by creating sub spaces like sects which can be independent organizationally and socially, but still share common cultural codes of worship and life in general with Hinduism.

Though the context was different but the Communal Award announced by the British for a separate electorate touched the same nerve against which Gandhi fasted. The time and subject is different but context remains the same.
The party which would pander to this may win Karnataka, but will lose India hands down for the polarisation it will create. Politicians should remember that only the Goddess rides the tiger.

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