Days after the Congress’s convincing victory in the bypolls, party chief Sonia Gandhi has decided to embark on a day-long tour of Karnataka on April 29 to attend the 105th birthday celebrations of Swami Shivakumara of Siddaganga math, and visit flood-affected areas in Tumkur.
Till his ouster as CM, BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa — a powerful Lingayat leader of the state — wielded considerable influence over Siddaganga and other Veerashaiva (Lingayat) maths.
Observers have attached political significance to Gandhi’s visit to the math. The seer, who heads 125 institutions and provides education and food to thousands of students, has a huge following across the state’s political and social spectrum.
The Lingayats had moved away from the Congress in 1990, when the leadership unceremoniously removed Veerendra Patil as CM in less than a year. He had earlier served as CM from May 1968 to March 1971.
With Yeddyurappa no longer holding sway and CM DV Sadananda Gowda making desperate efforts to win over the Lingayats, the Congress views this as a great opportunity to reconnect with the community.
Gandhi’s visit to drought-hit areas in Tumkur is aimed at cornering the BJP on relief work. The ruling BJP is facing flak even from its own leaders (including Yeddyurappa), over its handling of relief measures in drought-hit areas.
With the assembly elections less than a year away, Gandhi is also expected to give a strong message to the faction-ridden state Congress, telling them to close ranks and work towards bringing the party back to power.
“The victory in the Udupi-Chikmagalur bypoll is a strong indication that we can win the elections if we put up a united fight,” a senior leader said.