Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was initiated into the Lingayat sect in Karnataka

Rahul Gandhi at Sri Murugarajendra Mutt (or Muruga Mutt) in Chitradurga, Karnataka.

Chitradurga (Karnataka):

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday that he was initiated into the Lingayat sect by the seer of Muruga Mutt here in the presence of various party leaders. After Mr. Gandhi’s meeting with the Lingayat seers, the leader of the Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharana, performed the ritual.

“It is an absolute honor to visit Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha and receive ‘Ishtalinga Deekshe’ from Dr Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Earlier, a seminary seer said that Rahul Gandhi would be prime minister, but the chief seer stepped in and added a caveat to the blessing.

Mr Gandhi was meeting with the seers when one of them, Haveri Hosamutt Swami, referred to his grandmother and father – who both remained Prime Minister – in his speech and said: ” Indira Gandhi was PM, Rajiv Gandhi PM, and now Rahul Gandhi has been initiated into the Lingayat sect, and he will become Prime Minister.”

At this, Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, president of the institution, interrupted, “Please don’t say that…It’s not the platform. People will decide.”

The Lingayats, about 17% of Karnataka’s population, are traditionally BJP voters. With Mr Gandhi’s visit to the ballot state, Congress also hopes to broaden its appeal and project unity within the party. Elections are due to be held in May next year.

The Lingayat sect – about 17% of the population of Karnataka – was founded in the 12th century by the social reformer and poet Basaveshwara, who also had enormous success in some neighboring areas of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Outgoing Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and his predecessor BS Yeddiyurappa hail from the sect, which is particularly dominant in the northern districts of the state.

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