In Karnataka, the land of political seers and black magic, it is historically important for a chief minister to have god on his side. Considered an atheist by other politicians, the state’s latest CM Siddaramaiah has realized the power of religion in politics. His “rationalist” stand has pushed the state’s powerful heads of religious mutts to seek a different patron in the form of Siddaramaiah’s main rival within the state Congress for the CM’s post, G Parameshwara. Some of them have openly expressed their wish for Parameshwara to be made the CM: a cause of unease to Siddaramaiah.
Deviating from ideology, the CM decided to bite the bullet last week, with a 10-minute puja at the Anjaneya Swamy Temple in Kalasthawadi near Mysore; reportedly to counter the effects of what astrologers described as ‘nara dosha’—often described as weakness of the nervous system. Siddaramaiah even skipped an important state banking event to pay an unscheduled visit to the temple. It enjoys a special place in the rationalist CM’s mind: he had reportedly offered puja there when he was the deputy chief minister during Janata Dal rule in 1996. Sources close to Siddaramaiah, say before the Assembly polls, he had vowed to return for a puja, if he ever became the CM. However, his supporters maintained the temple visit was unexpected.
Siddaramaiah, whose socialist background is well known, had taken the oath of office by swearing on ‘truth’ rather than a god. He also stuck to his “non-believer” stand by choosing to enter the Chief Minister’s office on the third floor of the Vidhana Soudha through the “inauspicious” south door. This door was ordered shut in 1996 by another ‘socialist’ chief minister, J H Patel; since then, all CMs have only used the west door. But after being sworn in, Siddaramaiah strangely chose to do a puja to the CM’s chair holding a lemon, just as his former mentor H D Deve Gowda and KJP leader B S Yeddyurappa—both firm believers in black magic—had. Insiders say the chief minister has had a change of heart; he now says: “I am neither an atheist nor a theist.” Until now, Siddaramaiah, in his four-decade-long political career had kept away from temples and rituals, unless his official presence made it mandatory. Except when he and his wife Parvathi built a temple and installed a silver idol of their family deity at his native village on the outskirts of Mysore city. As the deputy CM and minister in charge of the Mysore district, he had participated in the Dasara pujas and also visited Tirupati a couple of times.
Last week, a group of seers from various mutts called on Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Dr G Parameshwar on his birthday and wanted the high command to make him a minister. This is not a cause of worry for Siddaramaiah as he has left it to the party high command whether Parameshwar be made a minister.