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Karnataka: Politicos go on a pilgrimage to voters’ hearts with sponsored trips

It’s the election year in the state and a bumper time for voters, excursion-wise and of the religious kind. 

Political leaders across parties sponsor such tours as they seek to earn the goodwill of their constituents so that they can laugh all the way to the vote bank. 

Former minister and BJP legislator from Shimoga city K S Eshwarappa has reportedly funded the Om Shakti yatra of 6,251 Tamil-speaking people from Shivamogga to Melmaruvathur in Tamil Nadu.

The pilgrims left in 112 KSRTC buses on Thursday to Melmaruvathur, which houses the shrine of Adi Parashakti. 

They left from Shubha Mangala convention hall, owned by Eshwarappa at Sharavathinagar in the city.

Eshwarappa and Basavamurthy Madara Channaiah Swami of the Chitradurga-based Madara Channaiah Gurupeeta flagged off the buses at Freedom Park here. 

On their way, the pilgrims will visit over 30 temples, including those at Srirangapatna in Mandya district and Nanjangud in Mysuru district, besides Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu as part of their seven-day trip. Most of the tourists are women and elderly people.

Karthik Jayaram, a resident of Gopala, said, “All my family members are accompanying me on the tour.” Eshwarappa and his family members will offer puja at Melmaruvathur on January 8. In keeping with the trend, political leaders are luring voters by sponsoring trips to religious places, in Mysuru and Mandya region too.

Sport meets

Not just that, sports meets and other activities are also being funded by wannabe candidates.  G D Harish Gowda, JD(S)’ designated candidate from Hunsur, and the sitting Congress MLA H P Manjunath are reportedly paying Rs 25,000 as pilgrimage expenses to each team of 10 to 15 members, embarking on a trip to Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala.

To enlist the support of the younger lot, the leaders have also been organising sports activities. Cricket, kabaddi and wrestling tournaments are being sponsored in urban and rural parts of the taluk. 

In Mandya, Congress, JD(S) and BJP ticket aspirants are organising pilgrimages to Dharmasthala, Kukke Subramanya, Male Mahadeshwara Hill and other places.

Thousands of people have already returned from such paid pilgrimages, it is said.

JD(S) ticket aspirants B R Ramachandra and H N Yogesh, Congress aspirants Ravikumar Gowda and K K Radhakrishna, BJP aspirant Ashok Jayaram are said to have arranged hundreds of buses for the pilgrimage, sources said.  

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