Mutt Maketh the Mandate: Tumkur is Textbook Example of How Soft Hints by Swamis Move Votes in Karnataka
The Siddaganga Mutt is considered to be the hub of the Lingayat community, which is seen as the largest and politically most influential community in Karnataka. (News18)
As Karnataka Assembly elections approach on May 10, the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, along with others in the state, is in the thick of political action with politicians making a bee line for them
The ‘aasan’ or the special seat of the late Swami Shivakumara sits prominently at the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur district. And no one, not even the present seer of the mutt, is allowed to sit on it. Such is the influence Swami Shivakumara, who died aged 111 in 2019, continues to hold over the people in the area.
And as Karnataka Assembly elections approach on May 10, the mutt, along with others in the state, is in the thick of political action with politicians making a bee line for them.
Tumkur – known as much for its education institutions, mostly run by the mutt, as for its coconut industry – is just an hour-and-a-half away from state capital Bengaluru. And its issues are the same. Residents say they will vote for development and corruption-free governance.
“We want better roads and more infrastructure. Tumkur can become a satellite city to Bangalore. And we will keep this in mind when we vote,” says Sriniwas, a young resident.
His friend Subramaniam adds: “Apart from this, I will vote against corruption. I know corruption cannot be weeded out 100%, but whoever shows less corruption…”
Even these young professionals acknowledge that the Siddaganga Mutt plays a decisive role in who gets Tumkur’s votes.
“No matter what people say, the fact is that when pictures of netas meeting the Swami are seen, it sends a subtle message about who they can vote for. That’s why politicians make a beeline for the mutt,” Sriniwas tells News18.
The Siddaganga Mutt is frequented by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, among others. Sitting MLA from the JDS, Gowrishakar Swamy, headed for the mutt immediately after filing his nomination papers.
The mutt is considered to be the hub of the Lingayat community, which is seen as the largest and politically most influential community in Karnataka.
It’s no secret that it was BJP leader and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa who started the practice of wooing the mutts and using the optics to cement the Lingayat vote. When Yediyurappa fell out of favour in the BJP, the mutts, specially the one in Tumkur, subtly hinted disapproval.
With Yediyurappa not contesting and Jagdish Shettar jumping ship to the Congress, the BJP is facing tough competition for the Lingayat vote-bank. It came as no surprise then that the Basavaraj Bommai government recently gave a grant of Rs 1,000 crore to the Tumkur mutt as well as to temples and carry out development work.
Office-bearers of the mutt deny any political interest or messaging. But in a constituency that deeply reveres the mutt and its swami, a hint is enough said.
It’s the same story in other influential mutts of the state like the Suttur Mutt in Mysore, the Kanak Guru Peeth in Haveri, or the one in Chitradurga. Most of these are popular with different communities like the Vokkalingas or the Dalits.
The irony of the political system is such that the calls for development and faith co-exist. And in the caste-based battle for Karnataka, politicians know this too well.
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