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With MLAs locked up, Lingayat mutts are kingmakers

Last updated on: August 2, 2011 13:35 IST

With MLAs locked up, Lingayat mutts are kingmakers

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Vicky Nanjappa

Vicky Nanjappa reports on the changing mindset of the dominant Lingayat community in Karnataka with regard to who their new chief minister should be.

It seems like a thriller is heading to an exciting finish. As all Bharatiya Janata Party legislators remain holed up in their hotel rooms to prevent any sort of horse trading, it is the Lingayat mutts who are playing a very important part in choosing the next chief minister of Karnataka.

At the moment, it is a straight fight between Jagadish Shettar and Sadananada Gowda, belonging to the Ananth Kumar and B S Yeddyurappa factions respectively.

The answer to the riddle whether the next chief minister will be chosen through a secret ballot or will it be a consensus candidate will be known after senior party leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley start the consultation process in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening. The BJP is expected to announce the new chief minister by 11 am on Wednesday.

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Image: (Left) Jagdish Shettar (Right) Sadananda Gowda

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It is a well known that the Lingayat lobby in Karnataka controls the BJP to a large extent. The two most powerful Lingayat leaders in the state today are B S Yeddyurappa and Jagadish Shettar, who cannot see eye to eye.

All along, the BJP top leadership was pushing for Ananth Kumar. However, they realised the inherent problems in doing so -- Yeddyurappa's opposition and the caste factor.

That is why the party sought to check mate Yeddyurappa by rooting for Shettar.

Shettar is a more acceptable candidate to a large part of the party and also the fact that he is a Lingayat goes well for the BJP. However, Yeddyurappa who had become a hero for the Lingayats had a control over most of the mutts in the state and they had sworn their support to him and also his candidate no matter what.


Image: (Left) Yeddyruappa (Right) Ananth Kumar

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With MLAs locked up, Lingayat mutts are kingmakers

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However, today there appears to be a change in the thinking of some of these mutts. They prefer to support a Lingayat leader rather than a candidate supported by a Lingayat. At least four mutts in the state today are in talks about this issue and have been trying to get in touch with the Lingayat leaders in Yeddyurappa's camp to change base.

There is hectic lobbying by these mutts to back Shettar and they have been telling the 30-odd Lingayat leaders in the Yeddyurappa camp to back Shettar.

However, Yeddyurappa, sensing this development, not only continues to keep his MLAs locked up at a hotel, but has even dashed off to the very powerful Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur to have a word.

This mutt is considered to be the most powerful of all the Lingayat mutts in Karnataka and a word from there could well ensure that all the other mutts in Karnataka fall in line.


Image: Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur

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Although the Siddaganga Mutt has backed Yeddyurappa all through, it would interesting to see what they would decide on since he is out of power today.

Yeddyurappa has also adopted legal recourse and has challenged the Lokayukta report in the Karnataka high court. The hearing is expected to happen on Wednesday

Both the Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar camps are protecting their MLAs, as they believe that there will be no consensus and the new candidate would be decided on the basis of a secret ballot.

The Ananth Kumar faction and the leadership from New Delhi is rooting for Shettar and the Yeddyurappa camp, on the other hand, backs Sadananda Gowda. The Yeddyurappa camp has been saying that Gowda be made the CM and Shettar his deputy.

At the moment, Shettar's base appears to be a bit stronger with several in the Yeddyurappa camp thinking of a change over. Most leaders think that as a leader and administrator, Shettar is a better choice and feel that Gowda will not be more than a dummy candidate in the hands of Yeddyurappa.

A secret ballot may swing any side and is bound to leave many unhappy faces in the party. There is always a danger that the government will not be stable if there is no consensus candidate and hence they will avoid the secret ballot option to the maximum.


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