‘First they locked up Ram, now Hanuman…’, says Modi after Congress pitches Bajrang Dal ban in poll manifesto
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday attacked the Congress for proposing to ban Bajrang Dal in its Karnataka election manifesto, saying that it was trying to lock up those who worship Lord Hanuman.
With election barely a week away, he further criticised the opposition party for comparing the banned Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) with the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
“Earlier the Congress locked up Lord Ram and now they want to lock up those who chant ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’,” the PM told a BJP rally. “Don’t you remember how a top Congress leader cried during the Batla House encounter?”
Modi was referring to former law minister Salman Khurshid’s statement in Azamgarh in February 2012, where he said that Sonia Gandhi had wept bitterly after watching images
of the Batla House encounter.
Addressing an election rally in Vijayanagara district, Modi sought to play the Hindutva card as he spoke about the place’s link with Lord Hanuman.
“I have come to the land of Lord Hanuman. I am fortunate that I got the opportunity to pay obeisance to his land. But see the misfortune that when I have come to pay my respect to his land, the Congress has decided to lock up Lord Hanuman,” he said, hinting at the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, Anjanadri Hills.
“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 the problem with Shri Ram and now with the people who say ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’.”
His attack on the Congress came hours after it released the Karnataka poll manifesto in which it mentioned cracking down on divisive forces such as the Bajrang Dal and the PFI.
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BJP steps up attack as well
Taking a cue from the prime minister, the BJP in Delhi attacked the Congress for denying the existence of Lord Ram during its rule.
“During the Congress regime, on Sonia Gandhi’s instruction, it was said that Ramayan is fictional, that Ram does not exist. The same party which didn’t accept Ram’s existence now wants to humiliate Bajrang Bali. … They are making every effort (to save the PFI). It’s the height of appeasement politics ,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
The word ‘saffron terror’ was coined by Sonia Gandhi and the Congress, he said, adding that saffron robe-wearing people were branded as terrorists. “Now, they want to jail those who are followers of Bajrang Bali.”
In 2022, the Centre had banned the PFI and its affiliates for five years, for their links to terror groups. Dozens of PFI members were arrested during a nation-wide crackdown spanning seven states last year.
Among various charges, the Bajrang Dal is accused of cow vigilantism and taking law in its hand to stop interfaith marriages. The outfit has a considerable presence in Karnataka’s coastal and Malnad regions.
Similarly, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that the Congress manifesto looked like “a manifesto propagated by the PFI”.
“The erstwhile Siddaramaiah government withdrew cases against the PFI. So, they are saying they will ban the Bajrang Dal to appease the Muslims. … The Congress manifesto looks like the manifesto of the PFI and fundamentalist Muslim organizations,” he said.
The VHP, too, took the same line to attack the Congress party. “The Bajrang Dal is an organisation dedicated selflessly towards the cause of national interest and social interest. … (Our) proud workers have been obstructing the expansion of Islamist extremism,” VHP international joint general secretary Surendra Jain said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
At poll rallies earlier in the day, PM Modi hit out at the Congress for supporting terrorism and its sympathy towards terrorists.
“People of Karnataka should not forget the history of Congress. .. The Congress has always encouraged terrorism. They (Congress leaders) have always been sympathetic towards terror and terrorists,” he said, indirectly hinting at the political row after the 2008 Batla House encounter.
In Chitradurga too, Modi reminded the crowds how the Congress had questioned the surgical strike that took place in 2019. “When the surgical strike happened, the Congress party raised questions on the capabilities of defence forces,” he said.
Later, a senior BJP leader from Karnataka told ThePrint that the Congress had done “an own goal” by mentioning the Bajrang Dal in its manifesto.
“…there are a number of instances to show the Congress’ anti-Hindu stand and its minority appeasement politics. The Congress government during the Ram Setu hearing, said the Ramayan is fictional…They questioned Ram’s existence whereas the entire country worships him,” the BJP leader said.
He further acknowledged that the BJP now has an issue to corner the opposition in a narrative war ahead of the elections.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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