The Karnataka Cabinet meeting that was to discuss the contentious issue of considering Lingayat/Veerashaiva as a separate religion has been postponed, officials said. Officials at the Chief Minister's Office confirmed the postponement, but did not cite any reason for it.

The Cabinet on March 8 had discussed the issue inconclusively, amidst reports of differences between Ministers belonging to both Veerashaiva and Lingayat faiths and had fixed March 14 as the date for decision-making discussion.

Rejecting suggestions that were factions within the cabinet on it, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had yesterday said "we will discuss tomorrow (in the Cabinet meeting)."

The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/ Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the numerically strong and  politically-influential community, amidst resentment from  within over projecting the two communities as the same.

While one section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other wants it only for Lingayats as it believes that Veerashaivas are one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.

Of late, some Lingayats have also stated that they were open to having the Veerashaivas under their umbrella, but the Lingayat nomenclature was non-negotiable.

Karnataka State Minorities Commission had formed a  seven-member committee, headed by retired High Court Judge HN Nagamohan Das on the issue, which submitted its report on March 2 stating that "Lingayats in Karnataka may be considered as religious minority."

The Lingayat/Veerashaiva community that owes allegiance to the 12th century "social reform movement" initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state.

The BJP and several sections of the Hindu community have maintained a cautious stance, keeping away from the move to give Veerashaiva/Lingayat separate religion status.

They have accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing society to draw political mileage ahead of the assembly elections, due in April/May.