Setback for BJP: Solapur MP's caste certificate termed invalid

Mumbai: In a major setback to the Solapur Lok Sabha member and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaisiddheshwar Mahaswami, the caste validity committee of Solapur district has cancelled his caste certificate. This decision may result in his having to stand down as a Lok Saha member and necessitate a parliamentary bypoll.

During the Lok Sabha election in 2019, the BJP had fielded Nurundswami Gurubasayya Hiremath alias Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya Mahaswami as its candidate for the Solapur Lok Sabha seat, denying a ticket to its then sitting Lok Sabha member Sharad Bansode. The Solapur seat is reserved for the scheduled caste. Mahaswami is well-known religious leader of the Lingayats in Solapur. He had claimed to be from the Beda Jangam caste and accordingly got an SC caste certificate, on the basis of which he contested the election against former home minister Sushilkumar Shinde of the Congress and the Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar. He won by more than 1.50 lakh votes.

At the time of his nomination, representatives of Shinde and Ambedkar had raised strong objections to his caste certificate, as he was a known religious guru of the Lingayats and not from the Beda Jangam caste.

The Solapur district caste validity committee, headed by Dnyandev Sul, member-secretary Santosh Jadhav and member Chhaya Gadekar, declared Mahaswami's caste certificate invalid.

Now, Shinde and Ambedkar may move the Election Commission seeking Mahaswami's disqualification and Mahaswami is likely to challenge this decision in the Bombay High Court. He is likely to keep challenging this decision at every stage so that he can hang on to his position as MP until the end of his term.

According to the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) leader Pramod Gaikwad, Swami, in his election affidavit, had mentioned he belonged to the ‘Beda Jangam’ community under the Scheduled Caste (SC) category, while his nephew, Yogeshwar Sidhamayala, belongs to the ‘Hindu Jangam’ community from the Other Backward Category (OBC).

Gaikwad had then alleged, “Swami has attached a fake certificate to his election affidavit even though he knew the seat was reserved for the SC community. How can two members of the same family have different caste certificates? We want the Election Commission to disqualify him.”

Forged documents

The caste validity committee, while delivering its judgment, has come down heavily on Mahaswami for forging documents to get the caste certificate. The committee has termed this as cheating of the government and has directed the Akkalkot tehsildar to file a complaint against him under the section 11 {(1) A, B} of the SC, ST, OBC, Vimukta Jaati, Nomadic Tribes Caste Certifiacte Issuance and Regulation Act 2000. The committee has also directed the seizure of Mahaswami's caste certificate.

"Mahaswami, in connivance with officers in the Akkalkot tehsil of Solapur and officers in the Umarga tehsil of Osmanabad district fudged the original government records. Therefore, criminal action against the Mahaswami and concerned officials should be initiated," the committee has also directed.

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