Karnataka Home Minister rakes up separate Religion debate again before polls
   18-Apr-2019
 
Home Minister MB Patil who supposedly wrote the controversial letter to Sonia Gandhi in 2017  
 
The Congress government led by Siddaramaiah had used the separate religion for Lingayats as its poll plank before the Karnataka assembly elections in 2018. The Cong government even passed an ordinance to this effect before the polls and went to town claiming that the Modi government had not agreed to its demand for a separate religion tag for Lingayats. The move had backfired badly for the Congress as it lost almost all the seats where Lingayats are a deciding factor. After the polls, as expected, the issue was put on a back-burner with none including the Congress talking about it.
 
However on 15th April, present Home Minister and Congress leader MB Patil raked up the issue again at a press conference in Hubballi. He said that the movement for separate religion status for Lingayats had not become irrelevant and that he will never disown the movement as it is part of his identity. He said this after it was reported that prominent Lingayat leaders Vinay Kulkarni and Basavaraj Horatti had recently said that the movement for separate religion status for Lingayats was not relevant anymore. When asked as to why the Congress did not include it in their manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections when it was part of the party's agenda for Assembly polls, MB Patil said that he will speak on the issue only after the parliamentary elections are over.
 
However, the former Congress ministers statement has ruffled feathers in the state that goes to polls on the 18th. Several Kannada dailies carried MB Patil's purported letter to Sonia Gandhi written in July 2017, where he urges the UPA Chairperson for logistical and financial support for the Lingayat movement for separate religion and to divide the Hindu on caste lines to win the assembly elections. In the same letter he urges that a separate religion tag for the Lingayats will ensure that the RSS in put in a tight spot and BJP would lose votes. "The unanimous opinion is that in order to win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it is essential to curb the RSS growth in Karnataka and defeat BJP in the 2018 assembly elections. This can be achieved by uniting the Muslims and the Christians on the basis of faith; divide the Hindus on the basis of caste/sub-caste and sect/sub-sect." the letter claims.
 

 
 The alleged letter written by Home Minister MB Patil to Sonia Gandhi 
 
The letter further states that, "To achieve this objective, it was decided that we use the differences prevailing in the Veerashaiva-Lingayat Community and announce sops for the Muslims and Christians in our budget and later in the election manifesto." The image of this purported letter was shared by BJP Karnataka's Twitter handle. Several Kannada dailies carried the letter in print on the 16th along with the Kannada translation. This caused a lot of debate online between the supporters of BJP and Congress. 
 
Congress and MB Patil reject the letter as fake
 
The Congress was quick to respond to the BJP's allegations and said that it will initiate legal action over the 'fake' letter. It can be recalled that the same letter had gone viral before the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections and the then minister MB Patil had said that he will initiate legal action but did not do so. On Tuesday MB Patil said "The letter is FAKE and will be initiating legal action for forgery against those who produced and published it. Will pursue this matter to it's logical legal conclusion, even to the Supreme court if need be, against all those who are involved", he said in a statement to the media.
 
The BJP responded saying that the letter has been carried by prominent Kannada dailies and it only shared whatever was reported. MB Patil has filed a police complaint with respect to the letter in Vijayapura. He said that the original copy of BLDE's letter head was also submitted to the police and claimed that the symbol on the letter head and his signature were forged.