Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s election campaign in North Karnataka, particularly in the land of the 12th century poet and social reformer Basavanna, was clearly targetted at attracting the powerful Panchamasali community, a sub-sect of the Lingayat community, which has been a BJP voting bank. In the end, however, the participation of the powerful Panchamasali seers in Rahul’s big Basava Jayanti celebrations seemed to not only send out an indirect message to the community but also bolstered the morale of the Congress party workers.
On Sunday (April 23), Rahul participated in the Basava Jayanti programme, the birthday celebrations of Basaveshwara at his birthplace Basavana Bagewadi in Vijayapura. He also paid obeisance at the social reformer’s resting place at Kudala Sangama in Bagalkot district and later held a roadshow in Vijayapura city.
Kudala Sangama, which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Krishna and Malaprabha at Bagalkote district is a pilgrim centre. The Aikya Mantapa or the holy Samadhi of Basaveshwara, popularly known as Basavanna, the founder of the Lingayat sect, along with a Linga, which is believed to be self-born (Swayambhu), is situated here.
The Congress leader’s visit to the region is significant since it is the land of Basavanna’s followers, the Lingayats, particularly the Panchamasali community. The purpose of Rahul’s visit is to boost the Lingayat outreach, as this community constitutes 17 per of the state’s population. Moreover, they are widely considered to be BJP’s vote bank.
Also read: Rahul pays obeisance to social reformer Basaveshwara, draws huge crowds
Participation of Panchamasali seers in Congress show
With the Karnataka Assembly elections around the corner, what is significant now is that the Kudala Sangama Peeth seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swamiji, who had been at the forefront of the Panchamasali movement demanding more reservations under 2A reservation (OBC) in education and government jobs, prominently shared the public dais with Rahul in the programme.
It is interesting to know that Jaya Basava Mruthyunjaya Seer had called off his two 32-month protests ‘temporarily’ on March end, before the Election Commission’s announcement of dates for the Assembly elections. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had intervened to help add 2 per cent more reservation to the new 2D category, which had been created especially for Lingayats by abolishing the 3B category.
However, the seer had been clearly unhappy as he was in tears at the press conference held to announce the end of their stir. Also, he had markedly pointed out that BJP leader Basanagowda Patil Yatnal, a Vijayapura BJP MLA had been called to Delhi by the high command and convinced to settle the issue.
Rahul offered floral tributes to Basavanna’s statue and was involved in several poojas at Kudala Sangama. Not only Jaya Mruthyunjaya seer, other seers of the region, mainly of the Panchamasali Mutts also participated in the programme. The former CM Siddaramaiah and the Congress candidate of Babaleshwara constituency, the former minister MB Patil and other MLA contenders from the Vijayapura region, had also accompanied Rahul.
Later, the Vijayapura district Congress leaders participated in Rahul’s road show in Vijayapura city.
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According to political observers, this show of solidarity by the seers with the Congress will send out an indirect message to the Panchamasali community, which is a deciding factor in the coming election, particularly in the North Karnataka region.
The 8 assembly constituencies in Vijayapura district
Congress is pitted in Vijayapura against the BJP and the JD(S) in some seats.
Vijayapura district has eight Assembly constituencies, four of which are with the BJP, three with the Congress and one with the JD(S). Kudala Sangama falls under Bagalkot district, and are represented by six BJP and two Congress MLAs and also has a lot of Panchamasali voters.
Rahul’s visit during the Basava Jayanthi and participation in the roadshow has bolstered the morale of Congress leaders and party workers in the region. In fact, AK Kodavoor, the Vijayapur district Congress president, told The Federal the participation of the Panchamasali seers in the Congress programme will send an indirect message to the community.
Interestingly, Vijayapura district, which is the home turf of Panchamasali leader from the BJP, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal and a constituency that he represents, witnessed a massive turnout for Rahul’s road show. The district also has a Muslim population of around 1 lakh. The Muslim community in this region respect the Basavanna movement and had participated in the road show.
Raghunath Patil, another district Congress office-bearer pointed out that the participation of the Kudala Sangama seer and other Lingayat seers in this roadshow, means a lot to the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections.
Also, the BJP was doing their best to distort former CM Siddaramiah’s statement on ‘corrupt CM’ as an ‘anti-Lingayat’ statement. “BJP is purposefully doing it even as leaders like Jagadish Shettar and Lakshmana Savadi have joined Congress and sent a positive message to the Lingayat community,” he said.
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The JD(S) party, which is considered now as a party that primarily belongs the Old Mysuru region, also has a hold in the Vijayapura district. It has a seat in Nagathana (SC reserved) constituency and the party is fighting to win at least two seats. Either it wins or it will act as a spoiler for the Congress in this region thus creating a triangular fight in Vijayapura between the BJP, Congress and JDS.
Meanwhile, the BJP will try to negate the impact of Rahul’s visit by holding Modi’s roadshow in Vijayapura soon. According to a Vijayapura BJP worker, Modi may also visit Kudala Sangama or even Basavana Bagewadi.
Voting will take place in a single-phased manner in Karnataka on May 10 and results will be announced on May 13 for the Karnataka election 2023.