Miffed at the Bharatiya Janata Party not giving him a ticket to contest the upcoming Assembly polls, Lakshmivara Tirtha Swami of Shiroor Mutt filed his nomination as an independent candidate from Udupi on Saturday.
The BJP had declared former MLA Raghupathi Bhat from Udupi as its candidate, but the seer wanted the party to retract its decision.
“My candidacy will surely help the BJP. Else, let BJP President Amit Shah or Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly ask me to step aside, only then I may reconsider my decision,” he told the media.
He is the seer of one of the Ashta Peetha’s – the eight mutts of Udupi district. A popular face in the region, in March this year, he had expressed his interest in contesting for the Assembly polls, either as an independent candidate or from the BJP.
In the coastal district of Udupi, Lakshmivara Tirtha Swamiji has made quite a name among his contemporaries for his outgoing lifestyle and, at times, controversial stances taken by him. While his love for bikes, karate, swimming and his expertise in several musical instruments have made him popular, he was recently in the eye of the storm when an audio clip where he claimed to have kids was leaked.
The controversial audio led to few pontiffs of the other Ashta mutts to ask him step down from the post, as it violated their code of celibacy. It was only after he slammed the recording as a fake and said that he is legally pursuing the matter that the controversy died down.
The 54-year old, who claims to have been inspired by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, maybe the first in the living memory of the Ashta mutts to contest elections for a public position.
In his nomination submitted before the returning officer, Lakshmivara Tirtha Swami has declared an income of Rs 23,08,129 during 2017-18. He declared Rs 50,000 as his cash in hand and Rs 20,242 in his savings, besides owning shares of public sector banks worth Rs 98,800.
On his close proximity to incumbent Congress MLA Pramod Madhwaraj, the seer said that he was merely his disciple, but politically the two are poles apart. He also said his candidacy would enable the BJP to bank on the Moghaveera support, which the party has failed to capture in the past. In fact the BJP has barely come to power thrice in the 13 polls held in the constituency.
Asked whether he was formally a part of the BJP at any point, he said he was not, but admired the party. “But, by the virtue of having voted for the party in the last 40 years, I am already a member,” he said.
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