BJP has fielded the spiritual leader Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya Mahaswami, from Solapur constituency, Maharashtra. Shivacharya holds a doctorate from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) on the concept of ‘moksha’ (salvation) in Virshaivism and Shaivaite philosophy in Kashmir.
He started the Shri Gurusiddheshwar Kalyan Kendra Trust in 1989 and Shri Jagadguru Panchacharya school at Gaudegaon in 1991.
He is the only religious figure being fielded by the BJP from Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha elections. He will be pitted against 77-year-old veteran Congress leader and former union minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi chief Prakash Ambedkar from the textile town located around 400km from Mumbai.
However, despite his strong religious background, Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya Mahaswami, the BJP’s candidate from Solapur, is being opposed by sections of his own Lingayat community, claiming religious figures must not enter electoral politics, while some are in favour of this decision.
A devotee Krishna Hiremath said, “Maharaj also has math at Shelgi in Solapur city and controls educational institutions. He has devotees across Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, and is fluent in Hindi, Marathi, English, and Kannada,” adding that Mahaswami had an outreach across communities, gave discourses on the Quran and decided to join active politics when his followers urged him to.
it is notable here that the Solapur seat is reserved for candidates of the SC category. Jaisiddheswar Swamiji, who belongs to the Beda Jangam caste, fulfills the criteria. Speaking to voters recently, he had said, “You may ask what can a sanyasi(monk) do in the Lok Sabha, my answer is, what is there that he can’t do?”
BJP leader and Solapur guardian minister Vijaykumar Deshmukh, who himself is a Lingayat, said they had insisted on the spiritual leader contesting as a BJP nominee considering his social work. He added, “We requested him to contest even in 2014, but he refused.”
Veerashaiva or Lingayats, the followers of the 12th-century saint-reformer Basaveshwara, form a large chunk of over 18.20 lakh electorate in the constituency reserved for the scheduled castes along with others like Padmashalis (Telugu-speaking weavers), Marathas, Dhangars, Muslims, and Dalits.
Jai Siddheshwar is among the prominent Lingayat leaders who publicly opposed minority and separate religion status to the Lingayat community, an issue that was fanned by Congress during the Karnataka assembly elections.
Congress, in an attempt to woo voters during this year’s assembly elections in Karnataka, where the Lingayats controls huge stakes in the electoral politics along with Vokkaligas in the state, had taken an extreme step of creating a divide among Hindus by recommending a separate religion tag to ‘Lingayat’ community ahead of the elections.
However, the Central Government had informed Karnataka High Court, that recommendation to provide separate religion tag to Lingayat sect had been discarded. Following which, Karnataka High court also dismissed the Public Interest Litigations challenging Karnataka State Minority Commission’s move to constitute a panel to look into the separate religious minority status to Lingayats.
Maharashtra will vote for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 in 4 Phases. The polling dates for Maharashtra will be on April 11, 18, 23 and 29. The votes will be counted for all the constituencies on May 23, 2019. The results of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 will be announced on the same day.