Bengaluru: In a bid to bolster support for his party, BJP national president Amit Shah on Sunday visited a top seer of the dominant Vokkaliga community in Karnataka during his three-day visit to the Congress-ruled southern state.
Shah's visit to the state is aimed mobilising support for the party and its state president and chief minister nominee BS Yeddyurappa, who is opposed by many over his autocratic style of functioning.
Importantly, Shah is visiting Karnataka at a time when the ruling Congress has shown inclination towards Lingayats, who are seeking independent religion status.
Attempting to reach out to the Vokkaliga community, Amit Shah met Sri Nirmalanandanath Swami, seer of the influential Sri Adichunchangiri Mutt, located in the JD(S) stronghold, and sought his blessings.
It was a great honour to release a book “The Story of a Guru”–The Biography on HH Jagadguru Sri Sri Sri Dr. Balagangadharanatha Mahaswamiji. pic.twitter.com/mTEPmfKYcs
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) August 13, 2017
Historically, the Vokkaliga community has always been loyal to the Janata Dal (S) led by former PM HD Deve Gowda.
Shah paid tribute at the resting place of Sri Balagangadharanath Swami, who took the mutt to greater heights and also released his biography 'A Story of a Guru' and interacted with select students from BGS Medical College.
If reports are to be believed, the BJP top brass had earlier decided to take Shah to the Lingayat-based Siddaganga Mutt to visit Shivakumar Swami, known as the `walking God'.
But, the proposal was later shelved as PM Modi had met the seer a couple of months ago, and Shah's meeting with the 'godman' would have signalled that the saffron party was focusing only on Lingayats.
The BJP leadership will now recommend the 110-year-old pontiff's name for the 'Bharat Ratna'.
During his visit to the mutt located in the Gowda or Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya in south Karnataka, Shah also invoked memories of one of the founding fathers of the city of Bengaluru, Nadaprabhu Kempegowda, who is also highly regarded by the Vokkaligas.
“I will fail in my duty if I don’t remember Nadaprabhu Kempegowda who was a follower of the Adichunchanagiri Mutt,” Shah said.
In his address, the BJP chief highlighted how mutts and religious institutions have played a key supporting role to governments across the country.
“It is only in India that mutts and religious institutions work along with the government and even more than the government for the welfare of society,” he said.
Attacking the ruling Congress here, Shah said, ''Who told you that Lingayats want separate religious tag. It's Congress whose ministers are trying to create a division for there selfishness.''
Aware of the likely consequences of Amit Shah's visit, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on August 13 sought to counter BJP's allegations that the Congress government in the state is one of the most corrupt.
Speaking at a public event in north Karnataka, Siddaramaiah said the BJP would not be able to divide society in the state on communal lines since the spirit of secularism is deep rooted.
As a result, he said, the BJP at the Centre would try to use central agencies to attack the Congress.
Amit Shah arrived in Karnataka on 12 August. During his visit, Shah is scheduled to meet religious leaders, state functionaries, legislators, MPs and leaders of scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs) and other backward classes (OBCs), among others.
With the state headed for elections next year, analysts believe that Karnataka can become the entry point for the BJP in the south, where it has little or no representation at all.
While the party is already seen close to the Lingayats, it fears it may have upset the Vokkaligas with the income tax (I-T) raids on state energy minister DK Shivakumar.
The Lingayats - believed to account for around 17% of the state’s population - are closer to the BJP as its chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa is from the community.