Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those who wished the Ligayat seer Sivakumar Swami on his 111th birthday.

Shivakumara Swami is the head of the Siddaganga Mutt, located in Tumakuru in Karnataka. He is the oldest living Lingayat seer in the country.

Praising Swami as one of the most venerable gurus of the country, PM Modi hailed Siddaganga Mutt’s work in empowering the society.

Recalling his visit to the Mutt in 2014, PM Modi also posted photos of him seeking the blessings of the Lingayat seer.

“I pray for the long and healthy life of Sri Sri Sri Sivakumar Swami-ji. May he continue to guide the society and bless his devotees,” he wrote.

 

 

 

The PM has, on previous occasions too, wished the Lingayat seer on his birthday.

BJP president Amit Shah, who met Swami on 26 March, posted his greetings on Twitter:

“Greetings to Nadedaduva Devaru Sri Sri Sri Shivakumara Swami ji on his 111th birthday. May almighty bless him with a long and healthy life and he continue to guide us with his wisdom,” he wrote in a tweet which contained pictures from his meeting.

 

“I felt like seeing God when I met the revered pontiff. I sought his blessings for our party’s success in the state assembly election,” Shah had told reporters following his meeting on Monday.

Read More: Amit Shah meets Karnataka’s 110-year-old Lingayat seer

BS Yeddyurappa, who is the party’s CM candidate for the upcoming assembly elections in the state, also wished Swami.

“His guidance is essential to society,” he said in his tweet.

 

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, too, wished the seer and praised Swami’s work for the empowerment of the poor.

 

Siddaramaiah’s government had on 23 March identified the Lingayat as a religion distinct from Hinduism triggering a massive controversy which led to BJP accusing the Congress of dividing Hindus.

Lingayats, who are followers of the 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara, constitute 17 per cent of the electorate in the state.

“Siddaramaiah is an example of how low one can stoop just for political gains,” Yeddyurappa, himself a Lingayat, said.

The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths surfaced from the community, amid resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.

While one section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other group wanted it only for Lingayats. They believe Veerashaivas are one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.

Amit Shah’s visit to the Siddaganga Mutt was seen as BJP’s attempt to woo the Lingayat community. In his subsequent public addresses across Karnataka, Shah accused the Siddaramaiah government of driving a wedge in the Hindu society.

On Saturday, Shah had raised the Lingayat issue alleging that Siddaramaiah’s move was a conspiracy against Yeddyurappa.

“Congress is playing politics over Lingayat issue,” Shah said.

Read More: Conspiracy against Yeddyurappa, Amit Shah on Cong playing Lingayat card

“If Siddaramaiah was serious about this (recognising Lingayat as a separate religion), why didn’t he do it immediately after forming the government?” he asked adding, “This is a conspiracy to divide Lingayat votes so that Yeddyurappa doesn’t win.”

Elections will be held in Karnataka on 12 May. Results will be on announced on 15 May.