Bengaluru, (DHNS): BJP national president Amit Shah's scheduled visit to Adichunchanagiri Mutt during his Karnataka tour this weekend is being seen as an attempt to woo Vokkaligas, a dominant community, ahead of the early next year's Legislative Assembly election in the state.
The mutt has influence over the politically dominant Vokkaligas. Over the last three years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited powerful religious-cum-spiritual heads of the Lingayat community --- Shivakumara Swami, the centenarian pontiff of Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru district and Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Swami of Suttur Mutt in Mysuru district. Shah’s scheduled trip to Adichunchanagiri Mutt is being interpreted in the state political circles as the BJP’s balancing act among two major communities that swing election prospects.
With the Congress trying to project the BJP as anti-Vokkaliga after Income Tax raids on the properties of Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, the saffron party chief’s scheduled visit to the mutt will dispel the “misconception”, a senior BJP leader said.
Shah’s proposed engagement with Adichunchanagiri Mutt has gained significance as the academic institutions run by the mutt were probed by the Income Tax Department when the UPA was in power in 2013. The BJP leaders, however, stated that Shah’s visit should not be seen with political prism. Instead, it is in appreciation of the fact that the mutt’s head Nirmalanandanatha Swami is taking keen interest in the prime minister’s pet Swachh Bharat programme in that region and also adopted a few villages to implement the cleanliness project on behalf of the spiritual body.
The party, which is hoping to retain its traditional Lingayat votes after declaring B S Yeddyurappa its chief ministerial candidate, is now working to reach out to Vokkaligas to consolidate on their 15% vote share, which in previous elections was scattered among different parties.
The BJP recently took on board former Congress Chief Minister S M Krishna, a powerful Vokkaliga leader. Also, it recently appointed M S Boje Gowda, another leader from the community from Chikkamagaluru district, as chairman of the Coffee Board. There is also talk of inducting a Vokkaliga MP from Karnataka into the Union Cabinet in the next reshuffle expected later this month.
Shah, who will be in Bengaluru for three days starting August 12, will also visit Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who runs the Art of Living Foundation in Bengaluru. Ravishankar, who was one of the staunch supporters of the prime minister, has a large following in Karnataka, especially among the new generation. During the next round of the state tour, Shah will also pay respects to other religious heads, said a BJP leader.
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