At a time when the political temperature in Karnataka is soaring and the Lingayat issue is adding on to the heat, Siddalinga Swami, the junior pontiff of the influential Lingayat - Siddaganga mutt, clarified that "the mutt only blesses politicians for their future endeavours and does not make any attempt to influence the voters."
In the light of the Siddaramaiah government's decision to accord 'religious minority' status for Lingayat, politicians have been thronging the Siddaganga mutt to lure the community. Earlier this month, both Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah and Congress President Rahul Gandhi called on the seer of the prominent mutt, Shivakumara Swami. The 111 year old seer is considered to be one of the most esteemed living religious and social practitioner of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva faith. Thousands of young children, mostly orphans are educated in the Siddaganga ashram in Tumkur.
Abandoned widows, senior citizens find solace in the calmness and service oriented ashram premises. Gowramma who came here eleven years ago cooks for the little children who live and study here. Several IAS, IPS officers besides state administration officers, lawyers, accountants have had their early education in this ashram claims one of the functionaries. But the mutt, like all the other Lingayat mutts in Karnataka is now is in the eye of the storm after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah raked up the issue of separate religion status for the community, a demand they have been making for decades, but rushed through by the Congress government apparently in an election gimmick.
However, when asked why mutts in Karnataka played an important role during elections, Siddalinga Swami told ANI, "There is no political connection, but on the religious front and spiritual front, they (the politicians) come to seek blessings."
Further, when asked whether Siddaganga mutt politically influenced the people, the junior Pontiff told Smita Prakash, Editor, ANI, in an exclusive interview, "No, we (mutt) only encourage voting, we never take sides, we don't ask anyone to choose a specific party. As a citizen of the country, we must vote. The Constitution of India has given us the right and we must perform our duty and exercise our franchise. We only advocate and appeal to the people to come out and vote where ever may be."
"None of the mutts supports any party or vouch for them. But yes, the government (whichever comes in power) does support all the mutts which are running, as a noble cause," he added.
While commenting on the political parties trying to use the Lingayat-Veerashaiva debate and the decision to accord minority status to the Lingayat community as the basis to make or mar the chances of parties, Siddalinga Swami dashed the idea and asserted, "All this is completely political, common people know nothing about it. This will not affect anything."
Further, condemning the tactics of polarisation, communalisation commonly used during elections to syphon votes, Siddalinga Swami underscored that one must not resort to such negative campaigning, as it adversely affects the society and the nation.
"For political gains, some people will resort to this, but this is not good for the society and the country also. We are Indians first, we must love India first and try to become a good human being despite the religion or community we belong to. We are human beings first and we must realise that," he said.
Lingayats, who make up for 17 percent of Karnataka's population and are considered a sub-sect within the Hindu faith, on March 19 this year, were proposed to be given minority status as members of a separate religion by the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah government. The final decision regarding the same would be taken by the BJP-led Central government.
Reportedly, the Lingayats are known to influence at least 100 out of 224 constituencies in the state.
The Assembly election will be held in Karnataka on 12 May 2018 in all 224 constituencies of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. The counting of votes and announcement of the results will take place on 15 May 2018.