Chandigarh, May 9
A day ahead of polls, Karnataka Chief M Basavaraj Bommai and his supporters today recited Hanuman Chalisa at Hanuman Mandir in Hubbali’s Vijay Nagar.
The only southern bastion of the BJP will vote on Wednesday following an election campaign that surprisingly culminated on a note more about Lord Hanuman, Bajrang Bali and Hanuman Chalisa than real issues concerning the state.
Congress’ election promise for action against “radical outfits like Bajrang Dal” if elected to power in Karnataka presented the rival BJP with a ready issue to corner it, literally on a plate.
Though the Congress was talking of action against the RSS affiliate, the BJP managed to link it to Hindu god Lord Hanuman and Hindu religion. The saffron party described the Congress’ promise as an attempt to jail those chanting ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also started his election rallies with ‘Bajrang Bali’ chants. “It is the country’s misfortune that Congress had a problem with Lord Rama, and now it has difficulty with those who say ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’. First they (Congress) locked Lord Rama, now they have vowed to lock those who chant ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’,” he said.
Karnataka—the birthplace of Lord Hanuman
The PM also said that the Congress had “decided to lock Hanuman” at the time when he had come to pay respects in his “land”.
According to mythology, Hanumanahalli (which means Hanuman’s village) in Anjanadri hills near Hampi in Karnataka is the birthplace of Hanuman.
“According to Sanātana Dharma, Hanuman was born to Anjana and thus Hanuman was also called Anjaneya and his birthplace Anjaneyadri (Anjana’s hill),” according to reports quoting mythology.
The hill also has a Hanuman temple with a rock-carved idol of the deity.
However, similar claims about the birthplace of Lord Hanuman are also made by Karnataka neighbours—Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
In fact, the claims led Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai to reiterate last year that the Anjanadri hills was historically acknowledged as the birthplace.
“Lord Hanuman was born in Anjanadri hills. There is proof in the form of Kishkindha (current day Hampi). There may have been controversial statements saying Hanuman was born here and there, but originally this was the place where Hanuman was born. He was born in Anjanadri hills and Kishkindha, there is no confusion about it,” he was quoted as saying.
However, sadhus in Maharashtra believe that Anjneri in Nashik is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) in Andhra Pradesh also says that Lord Hanuman was born in Tirumala.
Lord Hanuman and politics
Though Congress said that linking the ‘Bajrang Dal’ to Lord Hanuman was like “insulting” the revered Hindu god, the BJP made the most of the issue in these elections.
The Congress’ promise in its manifesto appeared to be directed at wooing the minority community in the state. However, terming it an attack on ‘Hinduism’, the BJP used it to turn the elections about communities rather than castes—Lingayats, Vokkaligas, etc.
There is no doubt that Karnataka politics is influenced by ‘Hindutva’ politics more than other states in south India—Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala—due to the large presence of religious ‘mutts’.
Observers say Hubballi (where Bommai today recited Hanuman Chalisa) holds a similar place in Karnataka as Ayodhya in north India.
If the Ram temple movement strengthened the saffron party in the Hindi-belt, the Eidgah campaign of the 1990s by right-wing in Hubballi helped it gain foothold and power in Karnataka.
It remains to be seen who will benefit from the controversy.