Mumbai: Amid rising poll pitch across the country and leaders making promises to win over the voters, this BJP candidate in Solapur may have stirred a controversy with his appeal for votes.
"Don't go away on voting day considering the long weekend. Even if you decide to go to Pandharpur, to seek blessings of God, you are unlikely to get blessings as I'm your God who can speak," said Siddheshwar Shivacharaya Mahaswami, a seer at a shrine near Akkalkot, at an election rally.
Mahaswami is fielded against Congress’s Sushilkumar Shinde and Bahujan Vanchit Agahadi’s (BVA) Prakash Ambedkar in Solapur.
He administers a shrine in Goud near Akkalkot. He is a prominent spiritual leader of Veershaiva Lingayat Jangam community and his followers include Kannad and Telugu speaking Lingayats along with Marathi speaking community.
Mahaswami is a recipient of PhD from Banaras Hindu University and has hold over at least three languages, including Hindi and Marathi. This is being seen as an edge over other leaders fielded by Congress and BVA.
His candidature was finalised at the last moment after the BJP dropped sitting Solapur MP Sharad Bansode. Bansode had defeated Shinde in 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a sizable margin of 1,50,000 votes. The reason lies in the demography of the constituency.
Solapur is located in south-west part of Maharashtra, bordering Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Along with Marathi, there is a sizable population of non-Marathi voters as well.