Cong Backtracks After Backlash Over Karnataka Election Manifesto


Amid ongoing protests against the Congress election manifesto which proposed decisive action against organisations spreading hatred amongst communities on the event of the party coming to power in Karnataka, senior leader M Veerappa Moily on Thursday said there was no proposal to ban Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the RSS-affiliated VHP.

The former Karnataka Chief Minister said, “We haven’t said we will ban Bajrang Dal. We said organisations like PFI, Bajrang Dal disrupt peace in society. I was a law minister in Karnataka, state government can’t do it, even Bajrang Dal can’t be banned by the state government.”

He further said Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar will give clarification about the manifesto, adding “There was or now no such proposal before us.”

After visiting the Chamundeshwari temple in Mysuru, Shivakumar said, “We have a commitment to the development of Anjaneya (Lord Hanuman) temples across the state if the Congress party comes to power. Our party will also prioritise the construction of new Anjaneya (Lord Hanuman) temples in various parts of the state.”

“We will establish a special board to oversee the development of Anjanadri Hill and ensure its preservation. We will organise specific programs aimed at educating the youth about the principles and values embodied by Lord Anjaneya,” he said.

This is the second such statement stating there was no suggestion before the party to ban Bajrang Dal. On Wednesday, he had said that the party had promised action against such organisations in its poll manifesto in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s observations against hate politics.

What does the Election Manifesto Say?

As part of its manifesto for the May 10 Assembly elections in Karnataka, Congress has stated that it is committed to taking strong and definitive measures against those who spread hatred on the basis of caste and religion.

The Congress 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 such organisations.”

Sources in Congress told News18 that a post-manifesto survey showed that only 7% of voters in Karnataka were aware of the Bajrang Dal ban controversy, and less than 10% considered it an election issue. The party believes that most of these voters were already BJP supporters, and the issue has resulted in some loss of votes in four coastal Karnataka seats. However, the party is focusing on delivering its 5 Guarantees Cards in 90 seats to secure a majority, while the BJP is concentrating on the Bajrang Dal issue.

Protests by VHP, Bajrang Dal

The manifesto triggered protests by the Bajrang Dal leaders and Hindu religious leaders associated with the VHP.

Protests erupted in several cities in Karnataka, including Bengaluru, Chikkaballapura, Srirangapatna, Mandya, and Chikkamagaluru, following the Congress’ pledge to take strict action against organizations promoting hate and communal divisions in their election manifesto. In Srirangapatna, Bajrang Dal activists reportedly tore up the manifesto and slapped it with slippers as a sign of their outrage.

According to reports, protestors are planning to organise chanting of the “Hanuman Chalisa” in Hanuman temples and other places of worship to protest against the Congress’ promise. Bajrang Dal leaders and VHP-affiliated Hindu religious leaders have released video messages urging people to come with their families to participate in large numbers in the event.

Reacting to Congress’s statement on ‘clarifying’ their stand on banning Bajrang Dal, VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain said in a video message, “Within two days, the Congress realised that they cannot impose a ban on Bajrang Dal.” “No matter what they say now, the people of the country will not forgive them and the people of Karnataka will make them pay for their sin,” Jain said.

Bajrang Dal Activists Vandalise Congress Office in Jabalpur

In Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur, the Congress office was vandalised allegedly by angry Bajrang Dal activists. According to a ANI video, group of supporters were seen entering the premises while shouting slogans and tearing down sheds and other items.

Madhya Pradesh Congress leader KK Mishra criticised the violent acts by the activists and said “vandalism, murder, hooliganism and checking of women’s identities in Garba are all that Bajrang Dal does. Then Chief Minister says that Bajrang Dal is a nationalist (organisation). It has not been even 24 hours yet, he should say if his nationalists act like this.”

He also called on the CM and said that if Bajrang Dal is a nationalist organisation, then the children of all ministers should join it.

During his public meeting at Hospet in Vijayanagara district on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the Congress for their alleged plan to “lock up Lord Hanuman” in their election manifesto. He also accused the party of previously locking up Lord Ram and now targeting people who say “Jai Bajrang Bali.” Modi chanted “Jai Bajrang Bali” at the beginning and end of his speech in all three campaign rallies in Karnataka on Wednesday.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI)

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