By Sandhya Ravishankar
It is hard to imagine what the Karnataka Congress had deliberated about when they put in a specific line in their manifesto for the Karnataka Assembly election.
That one line has now been turned into a war cry by the BJP and its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And now, the grand old party is on the backfoot, attempting to salvage the situation.
Senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily and KPCC president DK Shivakumar leapt into the fray to assuage Hindu voters about the party’s bhakti towards Lord Hanuman.
Moily even disowned the promise made in the party manifesto to ban the Bajrang Dal.
“We haven’t said we’ll ban Bajrang Dal. We said organisations like PFI, Bajrang Dal disrupt peace in society. I was a law minister in Karnataka, state govt can’t do it, even Bajrang Dal can’t be banned by state govt, DK Shivakumar will give clarification about it, there was or now no such proposal before us,” said Moily.
DK Shivakumar literally fell at the feet of Lord Hanuman in the Chamundeswari temple in Mysuru. He later told reporters that the Congress would build “Hanuman temples across the state after coming to power” and that a special board would be established “to oversee the development of Anjanadri Hill and ensure its preservation.”
What Sparked The Issue
“The Congress party is committed to take firm and decisive action against individuals and organisations spreading hatred amongst communities on grounds of caste or religion. We believe that law and Constitution is sacrosanct and can not be violated by individuals and Organisations like Bajrang Dal, PFI or others promoting enmity or hatred, whether among majority or minority communities. We will take decisive action as per law including imposing a ban on any such organisations.”
This was the promise in the Karnataka Congress manifesto which has been turned into a Sankha Dhvani by the BJP. Now the Congress is hurriedly disowning their own manifesto promise.
The use of the name Bajrang Dal, a pro-Hindu organisation that has been implicated in a number of violent incidents in the past, may have been the Congress’ way of taking a dig at their rival. But Modi and the BJP have a way of flipping such narratives in their favour – be it the ‘chaiwala’ comment by Mani Shankar Aiyar, the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ comment by Rahul Gandhi or the ‘poisonous snake’ comment by Mallikarjun Kharge.
To AICC president Kharge’s ‘poisonous snake’ remark aimed at Modi, the Prime Minister retorted by saying that the snake is the garland around Lord Shiva’s neck.
And to the naming of the Bajrang Dal in the Congress manifesto, Modi launched a counter attack in Vijayanagara district in Karnataka – believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman himself.
In Hosapete on May 2, Modi referred to the Anjanadri hill, barely 30 kilometres from where he addressed the crowd. He stated – “I have come to the land of Lord Hanuman. I am fortunate that I got the opportunity to pay my respects to his land. But it is sad that when I have come to pay my respects to his land, the Congress has decided to lock up Lord Hanuman. Initially, they locked up Shri Ram and now they want to lock up people who say Jai Bajrang Bali. It is a misfortune of this country that the Congress had a problem with Shri Ram and now with the people who say Jai Bajrang Bali.”
The Karnataka BJP was quick to jump onto the bandwagon, with leaders changing their social media display pictures to an image that read – ‘I am a Bajrangi. I am a Kannadiga and this is the land of Hanuman. I dare the Congress to ban me!’
On May 3, Modi amped up the rhetoric by enthusing the crowd in Mudbidri in Dakshina Kannada district, to chant ‘Bajrang Bali ki Jai’ along with the usual ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’.
The Congress, sensing that their words had once again been weaponised against them, moved into damage control mode. Former Union Minister P Chidambaram tweeted that Bajrang Dal cannot be equated to Bajrang Bali.
But the local Karnataka Congress leaders understood the probable impact of Modi’s chant and decided not to wade further into the issue.
KPCC President DK Shivakumar attempted to counter the rhetoric by stating – “We are also devotees of Anjaneya. Are they the only devotees? BJP is instigating for no reason. We are also devotees of Hanuman. Anjaneya is different, Bajrang Dal is different,” he said.
AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge refused to comment at all.
The Importance of Anjanadri Betta
Anjanadri Betta or Anjanadri Hill near Hampi in Karnataka is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman.
The hill is home to an Anjaneya temple where the idol of the monkey God is carved into a rock. Hindu mythology states that Anjaneya was born to Anjana and the wind God Vayu – he is therefore also known as Vayuputra. The area where the hill is situated is said to be the great Kishkinde kingdom ruled by the warrior monkeys who helped Lord Rama rescue Sita from Lanka. The mighty Tungabhadra river flows to the side of the hill.
Recently the Basavaraj Bommai government had allotted Rs 100 crore for the development of Anjanadri Betta as a religious attraction replete with a ropeway and better facilities for tourists.
Apart from this, the Chief Minister also announced that a magnificent Ram temple would be built at Virupaksha, near the Anjanadri Hill.