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Karnataka: Lingayat mutts could determine outcome of polls

Apr 23, 2013 10:44 AM IST Politics Politics

Hubli/Dharwad: The twin cities of Hubli and Dharwad in Karnataka are known for their heritage in Hindustani music and art. But they have also been the epicentre of the Bharatiya Janata Party's growth in north Karnataka.

In the 1990s, BJP surged here using local communal disputes, which threw up leaders like the present Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar. A dispute over hoisting the national flag here was used as a vehicle for Hindutva politics but since then much has changed for the BJP's politics and Hubli.

In 2013, Hindutva has been overshadowed by the BJP's lingayat consolidation and that is why Jagadish Shettar seeks the blessings of the heads of lingayat mutts before he begins his election campaign. "The Lingayats supported the BJP overwhelmingly in north Karnataka and outside and other communities also supported that is the reason we got 110 seats," said Shettar.

The BJP's victory also meant that over the last five years the lingayat mutts have thrived. The state government has granted hundreds of crores as funds for their expansion.

Yeddyurappa was the original lingayat leader and started the trend. But to ensure that his exit does not alienate the sect Jagadish Shettar's last budget for instance granted them Rs 200 crores.

"We do not support any political party. People from all walks of life can come, whether CM or not. They all come to seek our blessings," said Sri Mallikarjuna Swami, pontiff, Muruga Math. Which way the mutts will tilt could well determine the outcome in 2013.