The Congress’ “promise” of a ban on right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal continued to fuel a war of words in poll-bound Karnataka on Wednesday, 3 May, with only a week left for people to decide on their government.
Even as the Election Commission issued an advisory to parties and their star campaigners asking them to exercise restraint in their remarks and not to vitiate the atmosphere, BJP campaigners — including Prime Minister Narendra Modi — continued the attack on the Congress.
Modi chants ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’
Narendra Modi chanted “Jai Bajrang Bali” at all the three public meetings he addressed in Karnataka on Wednesday, in what is being seen as a counter to the Congress, which promised in its election manifesto that it would ban the right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal if elected to power in the state.
Along with “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” in praise of “Mother India”, Modi also made it a point — at the beginning as well as at the end of his speech — to chant “Jai Bajrang Bali” in Mulki in the Dakshina Kannada district, Ankola in the Uttara Kannada district, and Bailhongal in the Belagavi district.
Accusing the Congress of “abuse culture”, Modi urged the people of Karnataka to punish those indulging in abuse when they cast their vote on 10 May.
Addressing a public meeting in Ankola in the Uttara Kannada district, he said: “Will anyone in Karnataka accept this abuse culture? Will anyone like abusing someone? Does anyone like even a small man being abused? Will Karnataka forgive those abusing?”
He continued: “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 said the Congress and its leaders hate and abuse him because he has crashed their “corrupt system”.
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‘Karnataka will give a befitting reply’
Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi asserted on Wednesday that the people of Karnataka would give a befitting reply to the Congress on its promise of action against the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the RSS-affiliated Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
He also noted that an earlier ban on the organisation was rejected by authorities due to the absence of any evidence.
He told reporters in New Delhi that the Congress’ stand was driven by politics of appeasement, and targeted the party for announcing the ban on Tuesday, a day associated with Lord Hanuman.
The BJP has accused the Congress of insulting Lord Hanuman with its manifesto promise of acting tough against the Bajrang Dal if it was voted to power, he said.
Attacking the Opposition party, Trivedi asked if any state government could ban an organisation, and recalled that the Congress dispensation at the Centre had banned it along with the RSS in 1992 following the Babri mosque demolition, but it was lifted within months as the government could not produce any evidence against it before the tribunal adjudicating the matter.
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‘Move to appease Muslims’
Karnataka Energy Minister V Sunil Kumar said the move was meant to appease Muslims.
In a series of tweets, the minister said the Bajrang Dal was not an anti-social organisation and it strived for the protection of the Hindu community and gomata (the cow seen as a mother).
Kumar, who was the state convenor of the Bajrang Dal, said the organisation was a team of activists who were ready to make any sacrifice for the Hindu cause.
He wondered whether the Congress wanted to ban the Bajrang Dal just because the BJP banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) last year.
ತನ್ನ ಪ್ರಣಾಳಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಭಜರಂಗದಳವನ್ನು ನಿಷೇಧಿಸುವುದು ಸೇರಿದಂತೆ ಕಾನೂನು ಕ್ರಮ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ವಿಚಾರವನ್ನು @INCKarnataka ಪ್ರಸ್ತಾಪಿಸಿದೆ.@DKShivakumar ಹಾಗೂ @siddaramaiah ನವರೇ, ನಾವು #PFI ನಿಷೇಧ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದೇವೆಂಬ ಸಂಕಟ ಹಾಗೂ ದ್ವೇಷವನ್ನು ಭಜರಂಗದಳ ನಿಷೇಧದ ಮೂಲಕ ತೀರಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಹೊರಟಿದ್ದೀರಾ? (1/3)
— Sunil Kumar Karkala (@karkalasunil) May 2, 2023
Karnataka Social Welfare Minister Kota Srinivas Poojary said the Congress did not know the difference between a patriotic organisation and an anti-social outfit.
BJP MLAs and leaders in the Dakshina Kannada district also deplored the pledge made by the Congress in its manifesto.
Mangaluru North MLA Bharath Y Shetty said the assurance clearly proved that the Congress was entirely “anti-Hindu”.
Mangaluru South MLA Vedavyas Kamath said the Congress, as always, was resorting to appeasement politics, while BJP Dakshina Kannada district president Sudarshan Moodbidri said the promise had exposed the “mindset” of the Congress.
Meanwhile, Bajrang Dal workers on Tuesday evening carried out a protest in front of the Dakshina Kannada district Congress office against the party’s pledge to ban the organisation.
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Reactions from other states
The Congress manifesto triggered a war of words in Madhya Pradesh as well, with the state home minister questioning the “Hanuman bhakti” (devotion to Hanuman) of Kamal Nath, the Congress state chief.
In a letter to Nath on Wednesday, Home Minister Narottam Mishra said, “The Congress may go to any extent for the politics of appeasement.”
In his counter, Nath said that even the Supreme Court said that action should be taken against those spreading hatred.
Rajasthan minister Govind Ram Meghwal on Wednesday said people having criminal backgrounds were being inducted into the youth wing of the VHP.
Meghwal said that the Congress was not against “Bajrangbali” (Hanuman), but against the people who were committing crimes by forming an organisation in the deity’s name.
“Our party (the Congress) has not opposed Bajrangbali. But, the decision has been taken in Karnataka against those who make organisations in the name of deities and commit a crime,” the Cabinet minister told reporters in Jaipur.
He further said: “I feel sad that the Constitution is being shredded by the people in the RSS. People who have criminal backgrounds are being taken into the Bajrang Dal. Those who have serious cases lodged against them are being selected to join the outfit.”
The Congress was committed to taking firm and decisive action against individuals and organisations such as the Bajrang Dal and the PFI that were “spreading hatred” amongst communities on grounds of caste and religion, the party said in its election manifesto for the 10 May Karnataka Assembly polls released on Tuesday.
The action would include a ban against such organisations, it said.
(With PTI inputs)