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HomePolitics‘Countering BJP’s Hindutva narrative’: Why Kumaraswamy has gone after Peshwa Brahmins

‘Countering BJP’s Hindutva narrative’: Why Kumaraswamy has gone after Peshwa Brahmins

The Gowdas are not anti-Brahmins. Deve Gowda,  Kumaraswamy and Revanna, all are known to consult Brahmin astrologers and priests frequently.

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Bengaluru: Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy set the cat among the pigeons with his comment distinguishing the ‘divisive’ Brahmins of north Karnataka from the ‘peaceful’ ones of south Karnataka, and raking up casteism in the poll-bound state.

The Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) leader also said earlier this week to reporters that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, were finalising the name of Union minister Pralhad Joshi as the next chief minister if the party returns to power after the 2023 assembly election.

“He (Joshi) belongs to a section of Brahmins who are part of the Peshwas who demolished Sringeri Matha. This is the section that killed Mahatma Gandhi. They are not like Brahmins from the older parts of Karnataka (southern districts). They are called Deshastha Brahmins and he (Joshi) belongs to that group. Our side (southern districts) Brahmins say ‘Sarve jano sukhino bhavanthu,” Kumaraswamy said. His statements have attracted sharp reactions from all quarters, including the BJP and prominent Brahmin Mathas.

Not that the Gowdas are anti-Brahmins. Deve Gowda,  Kumaraswamy and Revanna, all are known to consult Brahmin astrologers and priests frequently.

At least three people close to the family said to ThePrint that Deve Gowda had three confidants in the early 1980s and all were Brahmins. These were: His mentor and former minister Ramachandra Rao who was also responsible for Gowda becoming a follower of the Sringeri Matha, senior journalist N.S. Ramaprasad, and a medical practitioner from Hassan called ‘Sahana Doctor’. His only known rival in his early political career was former chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde but, people aware of the developments say it had nothing to do with caste.

The family is also known to be very superstitious. In 2018, Revanna (then a minister) used to travel nearly 350 kms from Bengaluru everyday to his home town of Holenarsipura in Hassan as his astrologer has advised him against sleeping in his own house that would bring him bad luck and an official residence was not yet allocated to him.

“Deve Gowda would always accommodate an Iyengar swamy (priest) at his house and they have a habit of drinking water only from the well and not from a tap. And he had a well dug up for the Ahobilam Matha Swamy,” N Manu Chakravarthy, a retired professor and expert on Brahmin culture and practices, told The Print.

Another person, also requesting anonymity, said that Gowda was known to perform several ‘Yajnas’ to ward off evil or fight rivals.

Though there are others who have heard of this, ThePrint could not verify this independently. Kumaraswamy had also helped set up a development board for Brahmins in 2018 with an allocation of Rs 25 crore.

Also read: Polls soon, Karnataka govt to name Shivamogga airport after Yediyurappa year after he opposed move

‘Clever twist’

Gowda is also a loyal follower of the Sringeri Matha more than the Adichunchungari Matha, considered the spiritual headquarters of the Vokkaliga community which the former prime minister represents.

Kumaraswamy’s attack on Joshi is significant in this context as the latter is from the lineage of Peshwa Brahmins who had destroyed the Sringeri Matha.

“He used this very intelligently to guard his own south Karnataka territory. It is very clever because he was using a Brahmin versus Brahmin (argument). Peshwas were Brahmins and those people (sort of) caused the destruction of the area and he (Kumaraswamy) is saying that basically you are an outsider who has destroyed our place (temple),” senior journalist and Gowda’s biographer Sugatha Srinivasraju told ThePrint.

Several sects of Brahmins found in the northern districts can trace their origins to Maharashtra and identify with Chhatrapati Shivaji. A section of the sects in the north identify with ‘Amba Bhavani’ and ‘Tulja Bhavani’, believed to have given the sword to Shivaji and associated with warrior cries. The Marathas are also believed to have pillaged Sringeri temple as part of their alliance with the British and attacked all those opposed to the colonisers.

Srinivasraju said that Kumaraswamy did not mention the role of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler, but that this aspect is implied.

“He is not saying the second bit, which is that it (Sringeri) was restored by Tipu Sultan,” he said, adding that it would have taken the controversy around the ruler in another direction than what was intended.

The ones with Marathi origin have last names such as Deshpande and Joshi and are Deshastha Brahmins, experts say. The southern regions have more Iyengars with several, especially in Mandya, who trace their origins back to Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, they add.

Srinivasraju said Kumaraswamy gave the entire discourse a ‘clever twist’ but is unsure if it would help him electorally.


The BJP has been pushing Hindutva in the state ahead of the elections with the state’s population being asked if they chose the ‘Patriot’ Vinayak Damodar Savarkar or Tipu Sultan. But these are criticisms that it has used it to target the Congress and in particular, Siddaramaiah. The attacks on the JD(S) have only been for practising ‘family politics’ at best.

The Gowda-led JD(S) has nearly eight members of the patriarch’s immediate family in active politics and has several strongholds in the Old Mysuru districts. In these parts, experts and observers believe, Brahmins support the JD(S) as there is very little conflict between their caste groups. Lingayats, Bhakthi movement and other social uprisings have been ‘anti-Brahmin’ movements unlike Vokkaligas, N. Manu Chakravarthy, a retired professor and expert on Brahmin affairs said to ThePrint.

The Lingayats, experts said, would not mind the attacks on Brahmins too much as the BJP is accused of sidelining BS Yediyurappa, one of the biggest leaders of the community.

Even Siddaramaiah, who earlier used to identify as an atheist and later as agnostic, has not commented on Kumaraswamy’s statements. Hardcore BJP and pro-Hindu groups too have not been able to really hit back.

“It checkmates the kind of Hindutva narrative that is being peddled here. For the first time, the Hindutvavadis don’t know how to respond because they have spoken about a universal Hindu kind of victimhood and the Muslim has been the ‘other’. But this time, you are saying that a Brahmin attacked Brahmins,” Srinivasraju said.

He added that the BJP, unlike how it attacks Siddaramaiah, cannot call Kumaraswamy a ‘Leftist or liberal’ as they know how devout the entire family is.

‘Political impact’

Though there is no official data on the same, it is believed that Brahmins make up for around 3-4 per cent of the state’s estimated 70 million population. This is much lower compared to the perceived population of Lingayats at around 17 per cent, the Vokkaligas at around 14 per cent and the Kurubas in the 10 per cent range. But most Vokkaligas and several other communities depend on Brahmins to perform religious rituals. Brahmins occupy some of the highest posts in the bureaucracy and other private and public sector employment and there have been two chief ministers (Ramakrishna Hegde and R Gundu Rao) from this community.  Even the Brahmin Mathas are influential as scores of state and national leaders queue up to visit their pontiffs.

“Anyone can say anything. But is there any evidence or history to support the same? If it (change of chief minister) does happen, then why shouldn’t they (Brahmins) be considered? Are they (Brahmins) not citizens of India?” Sri Vishwaprasanna Theertha, the head pontiff of the influential Udupi-based Pejawara Matha said on Tuesday.

The BJP too has hit back at Kumaraswamy.

“There is an effort to sow poisonous seeds among castes. In a democracy there is nothing to state that only a certain person can become cheif minister and Brahmins too can. Has Kumaraswamy’s family taken the contract and only they will become chief minsiters. According to the constitution, anyone can become chief minister,” B Sriramulu, Karnataka’s minister for transport and tribal welfare said earlier this week.

However, experts say that Brahmins are not a majority in any constituency of the state, except maybe in Bengaluru South, the Lok Sabha constituency represented by Tejaswi Surya and Basavanaguri, the assembly seat in Bengaluru represented by his uncle, Ravi Subramanya. Both are Brahmins.

Brahmins earlier supported the Congress and then moved towards the Janata parivar and now identify with the BJP.  “At one time, they (Brahmins) were all Congress voters, then they shifted to Janata parivar because of the Congress’s progressive policies such as land reforms, and banning untouchability which affected the land-owning Vokkaligas, Lingayats and Brahmins,” requesting anonymity, a Congress leader and former associate of Deve Gowda said to ThePrint.

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

Also read: Arrested YSRCP MP’s son a part of ‘South group’ that paid ‘Rs 100 cr’ to AAP, influenced policy: ED

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