Karnataka: Oppn taunts BJP over PM’s ‘Bajrangbali’ pitch, Cong says Lord Hanuman with party

New Delhi: The Opposition on Saturday taunted the BJP over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Bajrangbali’ pitch during the campaign for Karnataka Assembly polls, with several leaders saying that it seems “Lord Hanuman is with the Congress”.

A major row had erupted during the campaign after the Congress, in its election manifesto, said it was committed to taking firm and decisive action against individuals and organisations spreading hatred amongst communities on grounds of caste or religion and cited the examples of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and Bajrang Dal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made this a big campaign issue, urging the people of Karnataka to say ‘Jai Bajrangbali’ when they cast their vote to “punish” the Congress for its “culture of abuse”.

Modi had come down heavily on the Congress over its poll promise, saying the opposition party in its manifesto, “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 Bajrangbali’ (Hail Hanuman).

As the poll results came in, reflecting a strong performance by the Congress which was set to form the government, several Opposition leaders in tweets took a jibe at the BJP over its ‘Bajrangbali’ pitch during the hustings.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the BJP’s attempts to polarise the polls proved futile and people’s mandate in the southern state showed that ‘Bajrangbali’ is with the grand old party.

Talking to reporters in Raipur, Baghel said, “I congratulate our national president Mallikarjun Kharge ji, Rahul ji, Priyanka ji, Sonia ji and all party leaders and workers and Karnataka leadership. At a time when the BJP is trying to heavily polarise, the people of Karnataka have given their verdict. This has clarified that ‘Bajrangbali’ (Lord Hanuman) is with the Congress.”

Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said the BJP equating Bajrang Dal with “Bjarangbali” was an insult to Lord Hanuman and the people have taken “revenge” for that.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani told reporters in Srinagar, “We congratulate the voters of Karnataka for rejecting the divisive politics of BJP and voting for secularism. They (BJP) tried to mislead the public in the name of Bajrangbali but Bajrangbali favoured the Congress.”

In a tweet, Congress leader Salman Soz said, “Growing up, Hanuman was a favourite of us kids. Aggressive Hindutva politics has made him into an angry deity. We only thought of him as full of love, fun and strength. I am glad voters saw the difference between Bajrangbali and the lumpen elements of Bajrang Dal.”

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Sanjay Raut tweeted a picture of Lord Hanuman on one side and PM Modi on the other. Over Lord Hanuman’s picture, it was written ‘Bajrangbali 130 plus’ and over Modi’s picture it was written ‘Bajrang Dal 60 plus’. Along with the picture, he wrote, “Jai Hind”.

The Congress was set to win over 130 seats while the BJP could manage over 60.

The ‘Bajrangbali’ row had erupted after the Congress in its manifesto said, “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 any such organisations.”

Prime Minister Modi’s aggressive campaigning on the issue had put the spotlight on the row with many arguing for and against as to whether it will benefit the ruling party or the Congress.

In a tweet, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra said, “Thank you Karnataka. For choosing LPG over Bajrangbaliji.”

BSP MP Danish tweeted in Hindi, “Hijab, Halal, Bajrang Bali, Uniform Civil Code, Love Jihad, The Kerala Story… none of the polarizing issues worked. The people of Karnataka have completely rejected the communal thinking. Now it is the turn of the country. A similar mandate is expected in 2024.”

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also took a dig at the BJP, saying, “Even Bajrang Bali has given a thumbs down to Modi ji’s campaign in Karnataka. Media may show the face of J P Nadda ji or CM Bommai ji as losers but it is PM Modi’s loss since he made the entire campaign about himself.”

Former Congress leader and political commentator Sanjay Jha said in a tweet, “The Congress has crushed hate, bigotry and communalism. And corruption. Congratulations to all liberal and secular voices. Jai Bajrang Bali!”