Bengaluru | Lord Hanuman has taken centre stage in poll-bound Karnataka as the Congress went on the defensive and on Thursday promised to construct and renovate Hanuman temples across the state, after outraged pro-Hindu outfits vented their anger over the party's promise to ban outfits like Bajrang Dal in its manifesto two days ago.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi likened the promised ban on Bajrang Dal to locking up Hanuman and his devotees, former deputy chief minister K S Eshwarappa burnt the Congress manifesto, and Bajrang Dal activists tore the Congress document, hit it with slippers and held rallies in several parts of the state demonstrating their protest.
Hindutva outfits have also decided to chant Hanuman Chalisa, the 40 couplets authored by 16th Century saint-poet Goswami Tulsidas in Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi.
With emotions running high, Congress felt the heat. All the issues around which the grand old party wanted to fight the May 10 assembly elections have been put on the backburner as party state president D K Shivakumar in damage control mode took up a temple run.
At Chamundi Hill in Mysuru after paying obeisance to Goddess Chamundeshwari, the Goddess of Mysuru, as well as Anjaneya, Shivakumar promised to either build more Hanuman temples or renovate the existing ones all over the state.
“The temples of Lord Rama's escort Anjaneya (Hanuman) are everywhere. We have constructed Anjaneya temples and we too are his devotees, especially we Kannadigas in this state where there are evidences to show that Anjaneya was born here,” Shivakumar, who is contesting the election from Kanakapura constituency in Ramanagara, told reporters.
He added that the Congress was committed to strengthening Anjaneya temples and the ideals of Lord Hanuman. “We are coming out with programmes. Congress will formulate special policies for the development of all the important Anjaneya temples especially those historic places associated with Anjaneya,” the state Congress chief said.
“We will formulate policies and programmes named after Anjaneya in all the Taluks of the state that will instil strength among youths to tread on the ideals of Hanuman,” he added.
Swearing on Goddess Chamundeshwari, he said Congress would establish the Anjanadri Development Board.
Coming down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP for politicising God, he sought to know how many Anjaneya temples did the BJP construct. "My BJP friends including Prime Minister Narendra Modi are trying to use the name of God for political gain. They are playing with the emotions,” Shivakumar alleged.
According to him, there are at least 25 Anjaneya temples between Bengaluru and Mysuru which were constructed by the first chief minister of the state Kengal Hanumanthaiah, who was a Congress leader.
"Did BJP construct just one temple? They are trying to encash it, which no one will listen. They are trying to mislead people, which will not happen. Congress will come to power. We will build all the temples that are linked to Rama and Anjaneya,” Shivakumar said.
The monkey God became the talking point in the state after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his public meeting in Hospet, the district headquarters town of the newly-carved district Vijayanagara, called the Congress's promise of banning Bajrang Dal an attempt to "lock up" Hanuman and his devotees who chant ‘Jai Bajrangbali'.
He also made it a point to chant ‘Jai Bajrangbali' (Victory to Mighty Hanuman) in all the three public meetings on Wednesday.
Senior BJP leader Eshwarappa on Thursday burnt a copy of the election manifesto of the Congress and attacked the party for its proposal to ban Bajrang Dal if it came to power in Karnataka.
Describing the outfit as a "patriotic organisation", the former Deputy Chief Minister asked; "How dare they (Congress) have courage to talk about banning Bajrang Dal".
The Congress in its manifesto for the May 10 Assembly elections in Karnataka said it was committed to taking firm and decisive action against individuals and organisations spreading hatred amongst communities on grounds of caste and religion.
"We believe that law and Constitution are sacrosanct and cannot 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 such organisations," the Congress said in its manifesto.
Hitting out at the Congress, Eshwarappa dubbed it a "manifesto of Muslim League (of Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah).
The former State BJP chief said: "(KPCC President) D K Shivakumar says the entire Vokkaliga community is behind him and he will become Chief Minister, (Congress leader) Siddaramaiah says backward classes are with him, and he will become Chief Minister," accusing the two leaders of trying to spread hatred amongst communities.
"We should arrest Shivakumar and Siddarmaiah first. Action should be taken against them," Eshwarappa, a former minister, said.
Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge condemned the act of burning the manifesto. "It is not good to burn the manifesto. It is like burning the guarantees given to the people. What we have given in writing, he has set on fire. It is like insulting people and democracy,” Kharge told reporters in Kalaburagi.
According to top Congress sources, Shivakumar was not aware of the ban on Bajrang Dal proposed in the manifesto.
"Those who read it before the launch told the team that prepared the manifesto not to mention ban on Bajrang Dal. It will definitely have a repercussion but they did not listen and went ahead. Now we all are paying the price for it," a Congress office bearer told PTI.
A defensive senior Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Veerappa Moily on Wednesday said there was no suggestion before the party to ban Bajrang Dal if elected to power.
Addressing reporters in Udupi, he said the Congress had mentioned action against organisations like the Bajrang Dal in the manifesto in the backdrop of the Supreme Court's stringent observations against hate politics.
Moily said state governments did not have the right to ban such organisations.
"The BJP, which now adores Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, forgets that Patel had banned the RSS at one juncture," he said, adding that Jawaharlal Nehru later revoked the decision.
"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," Moily said.
Bengaluru | Congress on Thursday lodged a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for invoking the name of Lord Hanuman in the election rallies in Karnataka.
Modi in his election rally since May 2 has been hitting out at the Congress for promising a ban on the right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal and equated the ban with "locking up" Bajrangbali, Lord Hanuman.
Modi also chanted ‘Jai Bajrangbali' in all the three speeches in Karnataka on Wednesday.
The Congress asked the Election Commission to restrain Modi from taking up the names of Hindu Gods, according to the advisory.
It also wondered whether the ban on Sri Ram Sene some years ago by then BJP chief minister Late Manohar Parrikar amounted to an insult to Lord Rama or if the BJP's betrayal of Shiv Sena is considered an insult to Lord Shiva.
"The Prime Minister in his address at public rallies spoke critically of the Congress party and in the melee attempted to portray the Congress party as anti-Hindu by taking the name of Lord Hanuman ie 'Jai Bajrangbali' only with the intention of soliciting votes for the BJP and urging people to not vote for Congress,” the party said in its complaint.
The Congress requested the Commission “to pass orders which the commission deems fit to direct the Hon'ble Prime Minister to refrain from using the names of Hindu Gods/Goddesses in election rally/speech only for the purpose of soliciting votes in the name of religion.” Meanwhile, Congress's chairman of the media and publicity department Pawan Khera hit out at the BJP for its hypocrisy and using the name of Hanuman only to garner votes.
Quoting the BJP-led Central government's reply in Parliament on the birthplace of Hanuman and Sita in a press conference, Khera said, “BJP says the birthplace of any lord is a matter of faith. If that is the case then why do they use them to garner votes? Why are they disregarding the existence of Gods and Goddesses? Do they need the Gods and Goddesses (only) during elections?” Khera also wondered whether when the BJP banned Sri Ram Sene in Goa, it was an insult of Lord Ram and when the BJP betrayed the Shiv Sena, it was an insult of Lord Shiva or Shivaji. He called the logic ridiculous and desperate.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who shared excerpts of Khera's press conference, tweeted, “The Prime Minister's hypocrisy, especially when in despair and desperation, has no limits! On 20th August 2014, his BJP colleague and CM of Goa Manohar Parrikar banned the Sri Ram Sene in the entire state. In 2020, the BJP govt in Goa again banned Sri Ram Sene for 60 days. Did the Prime Minister consider this an insult to Lord Ram?” As announced, many Bajrang Dal activists recited te ‘Hanuman Chalisa', a set of 40 couplets authored by 16th century saint poet Tulsidas in the Awadhi dialect of Hindi, in various temples of the state to protest the promise of banning the Bajrang Dal.
In Bengaluru, the main event took place at Rama Mandir at Malleswaram, Ramanjaneya Temple at Ragi Gudda and Gali Anjaneya Swami Temple on Mysuru Road.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Shobha Karandlaje too attended the Hanuman Chalisa recital at Malleswaram. She later addressed the gathering.
Similar protests took place in Mangaluru, Belagavi, Mandya, Srirangapatna, Mysuru, Hubballi-Dharwad, Kalaburagi, Chitradurga, Bidar, Vijayapura, Koppal, Ballari, Tumakuru, Chamarajanagara, Davangere, Kolar, Gadag, Bagalkote, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts.