Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday urged the people of Karnataka to say ‘Jai Bajrangbali’ when they cast their vote to “punish” the Congress for its “culture of abuse”, as the BJP stepped up attack on the opposition party over its election manifesto promise of banning the Bajrang Dal.
Defending its stand against the right-wing Hindu outfit, the Congress stressed it is committed to check individuals and organisations that sow the seeds of division and said the Supreme Court also has called for action against “those spreading hatred”.
In the midst of protests by saffron outfits, senior Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily, however, said there was no suggestion before the party to ban Bajrang Dal if elected to power and the Congress had mentioned action against such organisations in its manifesto in the backdrop of the apex court’s observations.
Addressing a public meeting in Uttara Kannada district, Prime Minister Modi said the Congress and its leaders hate and abuse him because he has crashed their “corrupt system”.
“In this election, Congress is seeking votes in the name of its leader who is retiring…the other way in which they are seeking votes is by abusing Modi… .
“Will anyone in Karnataka accept this culture of abuse? What will you (people) do this time? Will you punish them? Will you punish the abusers? When you press the button in the polling booth, punish them by saying ‘Jai Bajrangbali’,” he added.
Prime Minister Modi also urged the audience at all his rallies to raise the chant of ‘Bajranjbali ki Jai’ with him, besides his usual slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, hailing the motherland.
Modi had come down heavily on the Congress on Tuesday over its poll promise of banning the Bajrang Dal, saying the Congress in its manifesto “has decided to lock up Lord Hanuman. Initially, they locked up Prabhu Shri Ram (Lord Ram). And now they want to lock up people who say ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ (Hail Hanuman).” On Wednesday, he made it a point at the beginning as well as at the end of his speeches to raise the slogan praising Lord Hanuman in Mulki in Dakshina Kannada district, Ankola in Uttara Kannada and Bailhongal in Belagavi.
The BJP, its Karnataka unit and party leaders also tweeted on Wednesday with the hashtag ‘HanumaBhaktaModi’.
The BJP had termed the Congress move as an “insult” to Lord Hanuman and the ‘height of appeasement”.
The Bajrang Dal has, meanwhile, announced it will conduct ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ recital programmes across Karnataka on Thursday.
“This is the time when ‘Dharma’ is in danger and standing together is the only way forward. We should set aside our differences and come together to protect dharma, and hold hands together,” the right-wing organisation said in a statement.
AICC spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said the Congress “is committed to taking action against individuals and organisations that sow the seeds of division and spread hatred in the society”.
He alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hurt the sentiments of the devotees of Lord Hanuman by equating Lord Hanuman with an organisation.
“No one has given the Prime Minister the right to offend Bajrang Bali. He should apologise to Kannadigas for equating between an individual or organisation and Lord Hanuman,” he told reporters in Mangaluru, Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath said, “Even the Supreme Court and the entire state are saying that those who spread hatred and create controversies should face action. This is a matter of our social unity.” Replying to queries from reporters in Udupi, Moily said state governments did not have the right to ban such organisations.
“The Supreme Court’s stand over hate politics is very clear. We had made the statement in our manifesto as a part of it. But we have no intention of banning Bajrang Dal. KPCC president D K Shivakumar has made it clear today,” he said.
Party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that the BJP was raising emotional issues to divert the attention of voters.
“Your attention wanders every time the election comes. You don’t even ask for answers. BJP leaders know that if they are getting votes by raising an emotional issue, then why work? Wake up… enough,” she said at an election rally.
Earlier, party leader Randeep Surjewala said Lord Hanuman depicts piousness, service and sacrifice. Comparing him “as synonymous to any individual or organisation is an insult”, the Congress leader said and asked the prime minister to apologise.
However, Karnataka Energy Minister V Sunil Kumar, who was the state convenor of Bajrang Dal, said the Congress’ move is aimed at appeasing the Muslims.
In a series of tweets, the minister said Bajrang Dal is not an anti-social organisation and it strives for the protection of the Hindu community and “gowmata”. He wondered whether the Congress wants to ban Bajrang Dal just because the BJP banned the Popular Front of India last year.
The political row over the issue has spread to other states too.
In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and state home minister Narottam Mishra said Congress’ state chief Kamal Nath should clarify his stance on the issue as he is a devotee of Lord Hanuman.
“I have written a letter to Kamal Nath. I have seen his many tweets in which he posed himself as a Hanuman devotee. Congress equated Bajrang Dal with PFI. Nath should clarify his stance,” he said.
He alleged that the Congress’ “politics of appeasement” has hurt the sentiments of patriots and devotees of Ram and Hanuman.
“What is its (being a Hanuman devotee) relation with this (issue of banning Bajrang Dal)?” Nath retorted when reporters asked him about the BJP leaders’ remarks.
Asked if a similar poll promise will be made by the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, he said, “That will be decided by the manifesto committee. Even the Supreme Court and the entire state are saying that those who spread hatred and create controversies should face action. This is a matter of our social unity.” Responding to a similar question about Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said in Raipur, “Bajrangis did create some disturbances here but we controlled them. If required we will think about it (banning it).” Madhya Pradesh CM Chouhan called Bajrang Dal a “staunch nationalist organisation”.
“No one will forget those who were pampering the network of SIMI in Madhya Pradesh. Those who opposed the surgical strike and glorified terrorists are now talking about banning Bajrang Dal,” he said.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur also targeted the Congress.
“For vote bank, they used to say that Lord Ram is imaginary… On the other hand, under the Narendra Modi government, Kartarpur Corridor was opened, ropeway reached Hemkunt Sahib…and now a grand Lord Ram temple is being built in Ayodhya. No power in the world has been able to stop Bajrangbali or his followers,” he said.
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh posted several tweets targeting Bajrang Dal.
“As Savarkar ji has said Hindutva has nothing to do with Hindu Religion’ Bajrang Dal has nothing to do with Lord Hanuman. It is an organisation of goons (sic),” Singh alleged.
Rajasthan minister Govind Ram Meghwal said the Congress is not against ‘Bajrangbali’ (Lord Hanuman), but is against the people who are committing a crime by forming an organisation in the deity’s name.
Rajasthan Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said, “The Congress itself is a devotee of Bajrangbali. It bans those who try to create a situation of conflict in the name of religion.”
The Congress, in its election manifesto released on Tuesday for the May 10 Karnataka polls, said it will take decisive action as per law including imposing a ban on organisations like Bajrang Dal and PFI and alleged that they were promoting enmity among communities.
Bajrang Dal is a right-wing Hindu outfit and has often courted controversies over vigilante action by its members. Bajrang is another name for Lord Hanuman and the outfit’s insignia carries the picture of the Hindu deity.