In the State Budget, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who is also the Finance Minister, has made the allocation of Rs 1,000 crores for the comprehensive development and renovation of temples and various religious Mathas spread across the State. Budgetary allocation has been made earlier as well for the improvement, renovation and restoration of old, ancient and heritage temples. In comparision to the previous year’s allocation, the amount has been enhanced to Rs 425 crores which by any measure is a great enhancement. The increased allocation is not a big surprise given the fact that the Chief Minister also happens to be the Finance Minister. Although Rs 1,000 crores have been announced for the improvement and development of temples, there is no clear roadmap about the way it will be utilised.
BSY lays down the practice
Releasing monetary benefits to religious institutions and more so to the Hindu religious ones was hitherto unheard of during the earlier regimes of the State. The new tradition was laid down when BS Yediyurappa during his stint as Deputy Chief Minister of the state in 2008. It was witnessed also during the first BJP alliance Government with the Janata Dal Secular under a 20-20 month’s pact. BS Yediyurappa continued the populist trend while he remained the Chief minister for four different tenures. The opposition parties led by the Congress tried in vain to raise a hue and cry over the issue. But in the bargain more and more religious Mathas became beneficiaries of religious grants. In March 2011, BS Yediyurappa as the Chief Minister and Finance Minister presented his Budget without any mention about grants to the Mathas. But, during his reply to the discussion over budget in the Assembly for the year 2011-12, Rs 20 crores was provided for religious institutions. However, the same went up to Rs 110 crores during the year 2012-13. Siddaramaiah, the then leader of the opposition in Assembly criticized the measure of allocating public money to private religious institutions.
Funds to Mathas become debatable issue
Apart from resistance by the opposition, the subject also became a hot topic in the media and social networking sites for a pretty long period of time. It attracted both supporters and detractors. There were any number of people who hailed the government’s decision and likewise there was no dearth of people who made it a pretext to admonish the party, government and BS Yediyurappa personally. DV Sadananda Gowda and Jagadish Shettar, subsequent chief ministers following the exit of BS Yediyurappa also continued the practice of releasing financial aid to the religious Mathas. Jagadish Shettar granted over Rs 250 crores to establishments run by religious institutions in the budget for 2013-14. He had also mentioned that Rs 125 crores will be provided for hostels, educational institutions and community institutions run by various Mathas. BS Yediyurappa in his 34 months tenure earlier had released Rs 300 crores.
Continuation of BSY legacy
In a way, Basavaraj Bommai’s magnanimous gesture and pronouncement of sanctioning Rs 1,000 crores in the state budget for repair, maintenance and restoration of temples in the state is a continuation of the legacy laid down by BS Yediyurappa, ever since the BJP came to power, right from the alliance government days.
Ram Mandir in Ramadevera Betta
The state budget has also made a plan for making a majestic Ram Mandir on the picturesque Ramadevara (Ram God) Betta (Hillock) in Ramanagara district. Dr CN Ashwathnarayan, Higher Education Minister and Ramanagar district in charge Minister had been lobbying for the same since quite some time. Interestingly, although the project gets a mention in the budget, no specific allocation is being found on record.
Free Temple from Government control
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been demanding from the state governments to free temples from their control. CM Bommai made an announcement in this regard while presenting the state budget on March 4, 2022. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Bommai announced that the government would free the temples from government control in the state.
“There is a long pending demand to do away with the government control of the temples. Considering this demand of devotees, autonomy will be given to temples which come under the purview of the Endowment Department. Necessary legal action will be taken to delegate the discretion of developmental works to the temples,” CM Bommai said in the assembly while presenting the budget.
At present, the temple management has to seek government permission to utilise the revenue generated by the temples. The plan for the development of temples and utilisation of funds must be pre-approved by the government. In the BJP State Executive meeting in Hubli in December last year, CM Bommai had announced that his government had plans to introduce a bill to free temples and Hindus religious institutions in the state from government control. There are 34,558 temples in Karnataka that fall under government regulation and are controlled by Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Department. CM Bommai had said it was an ideological commitment.
Anjanadri Hill gets Rs 100 crores
However, on the other hand Anjanadri Hill pilgrimage centre in Koppal district has been given Rs 100 crores for overall development and to develop it into a sought after tourist place. Anjanadri Hill is renowned for the Lord Hanuman temple situated on the hill. The devotees have believed it to be the birth place of the Lord Anjaneya. Both these projects such as the construction of Ram Mandir on Ramadevara Betta in Ramanagara district and Anjanadri Hill development are seen as projects complimentary to the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, in the election-eve budget has also announced several other projects relating to many historical and religious places. Some of them include the implementation of permanent facility development scheme for Anjanadri Betta, Chamundi Betta, Hampi monuments development and Mysuru exhibition authority. An amount of Rs 60 crores has been proposed for the development of Hampi Vijaya Vittala Temple, Gol Gumbaz of Vijayapura, Bhoganandishwara Temple at the foothills of Nandi Hills in Chikkaballapur district, Badami caves in Bagalkot district, Kittur Fort in Belagavi district and Bidar Fort in Bidar district.
Development of Samadhis
The Chief Minister has also proposed Rs 5 crores for the development of the Samadhi of Sant Sevalal in Suragondanakoppa. Sant Sevalal happens to be a revered religious personality of the tribal Lambani (Banjara) community in the state. He has also drawn plans for setting up of the Chennabairadevi Memorial Garden in Honnavar on the Western coast. Rs Five crores have also been proposed for the development of Shahaji Maharaj, Samadhi in Hoodigere of the state. As is well known, Shahaji Maharaj happenes to be the father of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Development of Temple Complexes
It has also been proposed that all round development of several temple complexes which include the Sannati-Chandralamba Temple, Ganagapur Dattatreya Temple, Banavasi Madhukeshwara Temple will take place soon. A tourist circuit has also been planned with Nadaprabhu Kempegowda, the architect of the old Bengaluru connecting the Ramadevara Betta. Rs 20 crores have also been set aside for the development and protection of the historically famous Malkhed Fort.