A swami from Karnataka has accused the state government of charging an undue ‘commission’ of 30% of the amount granted for mutts. Describing the commission as a “cut”, Lingayat seer Dingaleshwar Swamy commented on the issue of government control over Hindu places of worship, which leads to such corruption, soon after the Karnataka Contractors’ Association accused the Mommai government of charging a 40% commission from projects.
“Everyone knows what’s happening. If a grant is given to a swami (custodian of a mutt), it is given only after a 30% commission is taken as a cut,” said the Lingayat saint.
Pressure tactic of Lingayat sect to extract reservation?
But the allegation of misappropriation by the Karnataka government could be a pressure tactic employed by the Lingayat sect to ensure that members of the community enjoy quotas in education and employment. Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai now has the challenge of handling the issue of assurance of reservation for the Panchamasali Linagayat community under the 2A category.
Panchamasali seer of Koodalasangama Mutt Basavajaya Mrutyunjaya Swamiji today declared that the deadline given to the ruling BJP government is over and he would launch an agitation from 21 April.
“We have been waiting for the assurances of the BJP government in Karnataka to be fulfilled for one-and-a-half years,” stated Mrutyunjaya Swamiji.
“Former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa promised to provide reservation by September 2021. Believing in him, we took back the agitation. The promise was never fulfilled. In a changed political scenario, Basavaraj Bommai became the chief minister and he sought three months duration for providing the reservation. Unfortunately, there is no sign of progress on the reservation to the Panchamasali Lingayat community,” he said.
Again the deadline was given to Chief Minister Bommai till 14 April. “Since the demand is not fulfilled we are launching the agitation. We are hopeful that the government considers our plea during the agitation. If it fails, agitation will be launched state-wide in front of offices of the District Commissioners. The agitation will continue in five phases to put pressure on the government,” the seer stated.
The development is a setback to the ruling BJP. The leaders have tried to dilute the movement by establishing another mutt for the Panchamasali sub-sect in the state. However, Mrutyunjaya swami, who enjoys the support of a good number of influential leaders of BJP in the state like Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, Arvind Bellad and others as well as in the INC, can dent the Lingayat vote bank of BJP. Panchamasali Sub-sect is dominant among the Lingayat community.
Chief Minister Bommai, who is busy handling the situation in the state against the backdrop of unrest, will be in a fix over the issue. The reservation issue is like stirring a hornets’ nest in the present scenario. The leaders of backward classes have warned they won’t tolerate disturbance with the present reservation pattern. Kadu Golla and Kuruba community have also launched a massive agitation demanding reservation under the Scheduled Tribe category, party sources explain.
Scandal after scandal
The BJP government in Karnataka is already under fire after a contractor from Udupi killed himself after alleging he was harassed by minister KS Eshwarappa who resigned last week.
After initially refusing to resign from his post, Eshwarappa tendered his resignation on Friday, stating, “I decided to resign because I don’t want to put in an uncomfortable situation those who helped me rise to this position.”
Karnataka Congress MLA Dinesh Gundurao has hit out at the BJP government and said, “If even saints are not speared by the government, where is the sanctity left?”
“As I have always said, in the name of God, the BJP is looting the state and getting the votes of the people, and even in grants which they proudly announce for these mutts they are taking a commission and looting money,” said the INC MLA.
The MLA further said, “This shows that there is no real commitment to anything. Grabbing power and money is their only criteria, and for that, unfortunately, they are using Hindutva and Hindu religion.”
“A very respected swami has publicly said this. What more evidence is required and what more proof is required?” questioned the INC MLA.
A case was registered against Eshwarappa for abetment of suicide for the death of Santosh Patil, a civilian contractor in Udupi. Eshwarappa was named as the first accused in the case.
The FIR was registered following a complaint by Prashanth Patil, brother of contractor Santosh Patil, who had levelled bribery charges against Eshwarappa.
Santosh was found dead at a lodge in Udupi on 12 April in a suspected case of suicide. The complaint that was lodged by Prashanth named Eshwarappa and his staff members Ramesh and Basavaraj as the accused.
Before his death, Patil allegedly sent a WhatsApp message to his friends stating his intention to take his life and blaming Eshwarappa for the extreme step. The police are verifying the authenticity of the suicide note through forensics.
“Eshwarappa is responsible for my death. He has to be punished. I’ve suppressed all my desires and [am] doing this. I request the prime minister, the chief minister and Yediyurappa to take care of my family,” Patil purportedly wrote in the WhatsApp message.
In the complaint, the victim’s brother, Prashanth Patil, said that in the year 2020-21, residents of Hindalga village had called on Eshwarappa in the state capital Bengaluru and requested him to lay roads, construct stormwater drains and pavement in the hamlet.
He further stated that Eshwarappa gave the nod to start work without worrying about the budget, following which Santosh Patil was awarded the contract. The complainant contended that his brother had undertaken work worth Rs 4 crore in the village.
A few weeks ago, Patil had written a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he alleged that Eshwarappa had not cleared outstanding bills. He accused the BJP leader of lies, corruption and irregularities, and urged PM Modi to direct Eshwarappa to settle his bills.
Eshwarappa initially denied the allegations and retaliated by filing a defamation case against Patil for levelling ‘baseless’ charges.