A day after the Congress proposed to ban the Bajrang Dal in its manifesto for the Karnataka Assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the issue to mobilise scores of supporters and members of the Hindutva outfit in coastal Karnataka districts.
During his brief visit to Mulki, a town bordering Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, where the BJP and the Bajrang Dal have a strong presence among the backward classes and communities, Modi condemned the Congress’ resolve to ban the outfit while stressing how it reflects the party’s disdain for ‘Lord Shriram’ and ‘Lord Hanuman’.
Also read: Bajrang Dal to have Hanuman Chalisa recitals across Karnataka in counter to Congress
The BJP strongholds of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada are also considered the ‘Hindutva laboratory’ with backward class communities including Billava, Mogaveera (fishermen community) and others lending support to the saffron party in the belt. Several youths from the coastal districts are members of the Bajrang Dal (loosely translated to brigade of Hanuman).
It was Modi’s first visit to the coastal district after dates for the Assembly elections were declared. After attending a rally in Mulki, Modi left for Ankola, a coastal town in North Karnataka district.
Cashing in on the anger
Sources say the Congress’ proposal to ban the Bajrang Dal has changed the mood of the public in Karnataka, especially churning anti-Congress sentiments in coastal districts where the BJP holds sway. Modi during his visit to Mulki condemned the Congress, while making copious use of the ‘Jai Bajrangi’ slogan to strike a chord with disgruntled Bajrang Dal activists.
Also read: ‘Bajrang Dal ban’: Sangh Parivar up in arms against Congress poll promise
During his visit, the prime minister also praised the fishermen’s community (Mogaveera) in the region for their service and sacrifice to the community. He said the first-ever Fisheries Ministry was started by his government and has implemented many schemes for the welfare of the community.
Modi also paid tributes to Queen Abbakka, the first Tuluva queen of Ullal, who fought against the Portuguese in the freedom struggle. Modi also used words from Tulu, a Dravidian language spoken by people in both the coastal districts, in his speech, eliciting a grand applause from the audience.
Accusing the Congress of ‘appeasement politics,’ Modi said the double-engine government of the BJP would only help in the development of Karnataka.
Referring to the recent acquittal of all the accused in the 2008 Jaipur terror blasts, Modi said it shows that the Congress was “anti-peace.”
A massive crowd had gathered in Mulki for the prime minister’s rally and his words boosted the morale of Bajrang Dal workers who were disgruntled with the Congress’ proposal to ban the outfit.
Also read: Bajrang Dal members disrupt Namaz in Gurugram, force over 100 people to quit prayers
Ramesh Shetty, a page-pramukh of the BJP said that Modi’s visit came at the right time. The party’s internal survey says there will be a neck-to-neck fight between the BJP and the Congress. It says the BJP has chances of winning five to eight of the total 18 seats from both the districts and some party seniors may be up for a defeat.
Shetty, however, said that the prime minister’s visit did not deliberately clash with the Congress release of its poll manifesto and was planned in advance.