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Will politics of mutts rule the roost again in Karnataka?

April 19, 2013 16:02 IST

The mutts in Karnataka may not openly support the candidature of any person or even identify directly with a party -- however each one has their favourites. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

Caste equations are majorly at play when elections are round the corner in Karnataka. However, more importantly one finds that almost all politicians go to a mutt in the state before commencing their election campaign.

How much importance is attached to a mutt for the politicians in Karnataka? Very much, almost all would say.

Here are the most important mutts in Karnataka:

Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur-Bangalore region

Suttur Mutt in Mysore region

Moorusavira Mutt in Hubli-North Karnataka

Ramba Pari Mutt in Chickmagalur

Shirigere Mutt in Davangere

Adichunchanagiri Mutt in Mysore-Mandya region

Ashtha Mutt in Udupi

These are the main mutts which have a large following of political leaders. Politicians in Karnataka feel that if they seek the blessings of these mutts then votes from the devotees would follow. It worked like a charm for the Congress once upon a time and in 2008 for the BJP when they were clear about the mutts that they identified with and hit the campaign trail based on a vote bank.

Take for instance one of the most powerful mutts in Karnataka today. The Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur is considered to be one of the main mutts for the Lingayats. B S Yeddyurappa commenced his campaign in 2008 from this mutt and went on to storm the elections.

It is believed that the mutt was largely responsible for the win of the BJP since many Lingayats voted due to this factor.

This time around the BJP may not gain much from the Siddaganga Mutt. There have been several developments and members of the mutt still subscribe to Yeddyurappa as the tallest leader of the Lingayats. This could hurt BJP’s Lingayat vote bank a bit in the Tumkur-Bangalore region.

The Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular too have tried cozying up to this mutt. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was seen sharing a dais during a function of the mutt and JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy even visited this place recently.

The JD-S, which relies entirely on a Vokkaliga vote bank, too thought it to be important to visit this mutt since every one does realise the importance of capitalising on a Lingayat vote bank.

However, there is another powerful mutt, the Murusavira Mutt, which has a major influence over the Lingayats in northern Karnataka. During the 2008 elections, it was Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat, who got the support of this mutt. This time around this mutt would completely back Shettar as they believe that he would become the chief minister.

There were attempts made by both the Karnataka Janatha Paksha and the Congress to split this vote bank, but the message was clear -- that Shettar is the Lingayat leader.

Among the Vokkaligas the most powerful mutt is considered to be the Adichunchanagiri Mutt. The leaning here has been more towards the JD-S and this is one of the many reasons why this party does well in the Mysore-Mandya belt.

The main reason, however, is that there is a major farmer community here who consider Deve Gowda as the son of the soil or mannina maga in Kannada.

Although the Congress has many Vokkaliga leaders such as S M Krishna and D K Shivakumar, the mutt and its devotees still consider Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy as the tallest Vokkaliga leaders.

The Udupi Mutt which is known as the Ashta Mutt is subscribed by the Brahmins in Karnataka. Many leaders from the Udupi-Mangalore region often commence their campaign from this mutt. However, like some other mutts in Karnataka, there has not been much of a political inclination by this mutt.

The rest of the mutts mentioned above such as the Suttur,¸Ramba Pari and Shirigere Mutt also command a lot of support. But when compared to the rest of the mutts one has not seen so much of political flocking in them.

The importance of mutts was evident both in 2008 and also in 1990. In 1990 all the Lingayat mutts in the state came together and decided that they would not forgive the Congress after Veerendra Patil was removed as the chief minister. He was the tallest Lingayat leader at that time and his removal did not go down well with the community.

Image: Sree Sree Shivakumara Swamiji, the present Mathadhipathi of the Siddaganga Mutt, addressing a religious gathering.
Photograph courtesy: Sree Siddaganga Mutt website 

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore