Bengaluru: UP Chief Minister Adityanath appears to have inspired religious heads in Karnataka to take a plunge into electoral politics. Four seers — all aspiring for a nomination from the BJP – want to contest against incumbent ministers in the upcoming state assembly elections. While the saffron party has not made any commitment to these aspirants, it is the first time that people in religious robes are planning to contest elections in Karnataka in good number.
All the four seers also hail the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They are: Lakshmivara Tirtha Swami (Udupi), Basavananda Swami (Dharwad), Madara Chennaiah Swami (Chitradurga) and Rajashekarananda Swami (Dakshina Kannada). One of them, Basavananda Swami of Sri Guru Basava Mahamane, is visually challenged. The Lingayat seer wants to contest in Kalaghatagi Assembly against Labour minister and mining baron Santosh Lad. He had joined BJP in 2013 and wanted to contest parliament elections from Hassan against JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda. But the party did not give him ticket.
Lakshmivara Tirtha Swami, belongs to Shiroor Mutt, which is one of the most revered mutts of the Ashta Mutts of Udupi. If he contests the Assembly polls, he would be the first seer from Ashta Mutts to do so. His decision, however, has not gone down well with other seers of Ashta Mutts including senior most Vishwesha Thirtha Swami. He wants to contest against fisheries minister Pramod Madhwaraj, though he acknowledges Madhwaraj’s work as a minister.
Known for his fiery and controversial speeches, Rajashekarananda Swami of Vajradehi Mutt near Mangaluru is actively involved with right-wing outfit groups such as Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He wants to contest against forest minister and six-time MLA Ramanath Rai, who earned a bad name after stopping free midday meals to a temple-run school in Bantwal.
Madara Chennaiah Swami of Sri Shiva Sharana Madara Guru Peeta in Chitradurga district is another aspirant. A popular seer from Dalit community, he is close to both BS Yeddyurappa and KS Eshwarappa. Unlike other three seers, Madara Chennaiah Swami has not expressed his desire to contest assembly elections public. In his recent visit to state, Amit Shah had visited his mutt. He is expected contest from Holalkere (Reserved) seat in Chitradurga district, which is currently held by social welfare minister H Anjaneya. There is also a report that the BJP would field him in the 2019 parliament elections.
There are at least a couple of them who are willing to contest as an independent candidates or from the JDS ticket. Recently, Paramananda Ramarudha Swamy joined JDS hoping to get a ticket from Bilagi in Bagalkote district. Siddalinga Swamy, president of Sri Ram Sene and head of Karuneshwar Mutt, Andola is open about his plans to contest from Jewargi in Kalaburagi district. But there are not many instances where religious heads have won the elections in Karnataka. In 1983, Father Jacob Pallipurathu, who dedicated himself to social service, had won from Kalghatgi constituency against a Congress candidate”, recalls Clifford Pereira, who is actively involved in church affairs. Bernard Moras, outgoing archbishop of Bengaluru diocese says the church does not allow religious heads to contest elections.