With the Congress-JD(S) alliance winning the trust vote in Karnataka Friday, the Centre has dropped the state’s demand for a separate flag and minority status for Lingayats, saying the proposals were made by the previous government. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will now be required to send a fresh request, it is learnt.
The proposals for a separate flag and minority tag for Lingayats were made by the Congress government under Siddaramaiah just weeks before the assembly election was announced.
While the BJP emerged the single-largest party with 104 seats in the assembly polls, the Congress, which finished second with 78 stitched an alliance with the JD(S) and its allies, with 38 seats, to form the government.
Home Ministry officials said the demands of the Karnataka government were still under process until last week but with a new government in charge, it was suggested that a fresh proposal was necessary before examining the matter further. “While the proposal to declare Lingayats as a minority was sent to Ministry of Minority Affairs, the discussion for a separate flag to be used on occasions like the state’s raising day was under inter-ministerial consultations,” said an official familiar with the development.
Siddaramaiah had unveiled the proposed official flag, in the hues of yellow, white and red, and with an emblem of ‘Gandaberunda’, a two-headed mythological bird, before the election. The move was seen as part of the Congress strategy to tap into local Kannada pride.
The Flag Code of India, 2001 and the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005, refers only to the Tricolour and does not mention any other flag. Only Jammu and Kashmir has a separate flag because of the special status it enjoys under Article 370 of the Constitution. Central paramilitary forces like CRPF, BSF and the state police have separate flags but do not have any constitutional backing and are only used on the occasions such as foundation day.
Lingayats, who are considered supporters of the BJP and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa supporter, constitute almost 17 per cent of the electorate. The Home Ministry opposed the demand on Lingayats but did not take a decision since the election process was on. The MHA had argued that if given the minority tag, Lingayats would be “deprived” of Scheduled Caste status and had said that the move may have “widespread implications” if other sects of Hinduism also raise similar demands.
“Any move to declare Lingayats/Veershaiva as an independent religion would have widespread implications. Arya Samaj, Radhaswami, Vaishnava and a few other sects of the Hinduism also do not adhere to typical Brahminical Hinduism. All these sects may line up to be declared as separate religious entities. Moreover, Lingayat, if treated as a separate religion, would be deprived of the status of schedule cast which can only be for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists,” the MHA had observed in an internal note.