In the run up to the Karnataka Assembly Elections slated to be held on May 12, both the national parties seem to be wooing pontiffs of religious institutions to gather the support of various vote banks.
However, the BJP has taken this one step further and is planning to offer tickets to a few seers this time around, a highly placed source in the saffron party said.
Basavananda Swamiji, who is an ardent follower of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is said to have expressed interest in contesting elections from Dharwad. Basavananda Swamiji, who is visually impaired had won over the people of Dharwad after he set up the college for naturopathy.
â€śHe has been an inspiration to people in Dharwad especially since he began organising drives to urge people to educate their children. He had also opposed the demand for a separate Lingayat religion and has expressed interest in contesting the elections. There are chances he may be given a ticket to contest from Kalaghatagi constituency to mainly counter Congressâ€™ strategy to divide the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community,â€ť the source added.
The MLA for the Kalaghatagi constituency is the current Labour Minister Santosh Lad. Sources say that Ladâ€™s popularity in the area is also one of the reasons why the BJP may choose to field the seer in this constituency. â€śThere is no anti-incumbency for Santosh Lad in the region. His constituents have a good opinion of him as he has not neglected them since he came to power,â€ť sources say.
Meanwhile, Chennaiah Swamiji of the Madara Chennaiah Mutt is also said to have expressed interest in contesting from Chitradurga. The mutt has a huge following from the Dalit and Lingayat communities. For the BJP, a ticket offered to its pontiff could help surpass the huge gains made by the Congress by offering minority status to Lingayats.
â€śPeople from Chitradurga have also joined the cause for a separate Lingayat religion. Chennaiah Swamiji could be given a ticket as he also brings in the Dalit vote bank. The Madiga community revers him,â€ť the source said.
In Mangaluruâ€™s Gurupur area, pontiff of Vajradehi Mutt, Rajashekharananda Swamiji is also eyeing a ticket. His affiliation with the pro-Hindu groups in the region has the saffron party thinking of fielding him from Ullal constituency, a BJP functionary said. However, senior party leaders are sceptical about his entry as a loss would be a major blow to the BJPâ€™s carefully crafted Hindutva agenda in the region.
Another controversial seer, Lakshmivara Teertha Swami, has openly expressed his desire to contest from a BJP ticket. The pontiff of the Shiroor Mutt in Udupi, Lakshmivara Swami had in 2017 expressed his desire to contest polls after a controversial fight with the Congress MLA from the region Pramod Madhwaraj.
â€śThere is apprehension about giving him a ticket because then the Brahmin vote will be split between Pramod Madhwaraj and the seer. However, his popularity in the region is also something that cannot be discounted,â€ť the source said.
Itâ€™s is not only the BJP but also the Congress, which is looking at fielding a seer to contest against Lakshman Sangappa Savadi, the MLA of Athani in Belagavi district. â€śLakshman Savadi contested as an independent candidate in the 1999 election and was the runner up. He has won three consecutive elections from Athani since 2004 and also managed to win from a BJP ticket despite severe anti-incumbency for the BJP government in 2013. Hindutva agenda works well in this region and hence it is possible that a seer could be fielded from this area,â€ť a Congress functionary said.