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Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018: Lingayat politics peaks in Karnataka

In London, Modi walked to Albert Embankment Gardens on the banks of the river Thames to offer floral tributes at the bust. "It is an honour to pay homage to Bhagwan Basaveshwara during my UK visit.

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Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018: Lingayat politics peaks in Karnataka
Amit Shah offers tribute to Lord Basaveshwara
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With an eye on Karnataka state assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid tributes at the statue of 12th century Lingayat philosopher Basaveshwara in London. The lead organiser of the event, however, insisted that there was no link to the elections scheduled on May 12.

Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah too paid tributes to the philosopher in Bengaluru during his seventh round of campaigning in the state.

In London, Modi walked to Albert Embankment Gardens on the banks of the river Thames to offer floral tributes at the bust. "It is an honour to pay homage to Bhagwan Basaveshwara during my UK visit.

The ideals of Bhagwan Basaveshwara motivate people across the entire world," Modi tweeted in Kannada as well as English, with photographs of the event organised by The Basaveshwara Foundation, a UK-based non-profit which erected the statue.

The gesture comes against the backdrop of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government recommending to the Centre to grant Lingayats the status of religious minority, even as they are considered BJP's traditional voters. The move was to undercut BJP's push for Hindu consolidation. Lingayats/Veerashaivas are said to form about 17 per cent of the population, and wield decisive clout in around 100 constituencies, particularly north Karnataka. The Prime Minister also hailed Basaveshwara or Basavanna as the "flag bearer of equality". "Basava was a philosopher for whom social justice was very important. He was the flag bearer of equality, and brought about a revolution in society," he said.

Basava Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Basaveshwara, is a public holiday in Karnataka.

Meanwhile, police foiled an attempt by an alleged group of Lingayats to mob Shah and confront him on BJP's stand on the issue. The saffron outfit has condemned Siddaramaiah's move, claiming he is trying to divide the Hindu community.

While campaigning, Shah has been reaching out to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats, and meeting their seers to ensure that the Congress does not cut into this voter base.

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