October 1990, almost 30 years ago, Congress president Rajeev Gandhi addressed the media outside Bengaluru airport and in a moment removed the then Chief Minister of the state Veerendra Patil. At the time when this announcement was made, Veerendra Patil, who had suffered a stroke, was paralysed and bedridden. This sudden and shock removal of the CM stunned the entire nation. This was the incident that is said to have led the largest voter bloc in Karnataka:Lingayats deserting the Congress party. The whole story behind this infamous incident goes like this. The Rathyatra that passed through the state of Karnataka, led to major riots and violence in the state. 46 people died in the Communal riots. This happened a week after Veerendra Patil, then Karnataka CM, was bedridden due to paralysis. Karnataka being Congress ruled state, Rajiv Gandhi reached here for damage control. Now some reports say, without even meeting the bed-ridden CM, Rajiv Gandhi announced at the airport to reporters that Patil will be removed as CM and a new CM will be chosen by the party. Some other reports, including this 1990 report of India Today says, Rajiv Gandhi arrived at Bengaluru airport, went to meet Veerendra paatil at Cauvery bungalow, from there went to 1-2 violence hit areas and then while heading to Madras, he made the shock announcement at Bengaluru Airport. Although the party tried to do damage control by saying that it has done so, because Veerendra patil is ill, and state needs hands on CM at the time, the manner in which this was communicated, gave out a message that Congress party had humiliated Patil. This did not go down well with the Lingayats the community from which he hailed and in the subsequent elections, the community deserted Congress. In the subsequent years Congress tried its best to bring the community back to Congress but failed. Instad, Lingayat community rallied behind BJP and opened the door to south for the party. This went on for 30 years, but in the 2023 elections, Congress’ lingayat vote share has significantly increased indicating that the community has shifted its political preference to the GOP again. In fact One of the Senior lingayat leader of the state MB Patil ahead of the poll said with several lingayat leaders of BJP joining Congress, the communty is coming back to Congress fold. The numbers prove the same.
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