Congress leader DK Shivakumar on Friday admitted that he had met controversial self-styled guru Nithyananda at his ashram during the Karnataka election more than a year ago. The former Karnataka minister was clarifying after a photo of him with Nithyananda emerged online and was widely circulated.
"I met him more than a year ago for a few minutes when I went to his ashram during elections. We meet many godmen, they are also a part of our constituency. I don't know the issues associated with that person," Mr Shivakumar told news agency ANI.
Nithyananda, who is wanted by the Gujarat police in a case of kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children at his Ahmedabad ashram, is believed to have fled the country.
The Congress MLA, who is out on bail in a money-laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate, said he had known Nithyananda for 20 years.
"He has a big ashram, institutions. At some point of time in some election time I went to seek votes from his ashram," Mr Shivakumar said, adding that there was nothing unusual about meeting religious leaders, politicians and businessmen during election campaigns.
Reports suggest that Nithyananda is in Trinidad and Tobago, but the Ministry of External Affairs says it has no official information on his location. The foreign ministry also says it has not received any formal extradition request for him.
Nithyananda is accused of the kidnapping of four children who were allegedly held captive at his ashram and forced to collect donation from his followers.
The Gujarat High Court has also issued notice to Nithyananda and the state government on the complaint of a father who says two of his daughters have been detained at his ashram.
Nithyananda has also been accused of rape in the past.
He is among the most visible "godmen" in the country and is often filmed accepting gold and cash from devotees or dancing at his religious gatherings.