Karnataka polls: Congress promises to ban Bajrang Dal raises concerns

New Delhi: While the Congress’ manifesto promise to ban the Bajrang Dal if it came to power in Karnataka has raised many eyebrows within the organisation, the party believes that the move will “not damage” its electoral prospects.

The Congress assurance in its manifesto released Tuesday was aimed to stem the split of Muslim votes among the “secular” forces in the state. The party’s spin doctors believe that the 13 per cent Muslim vote may have split between the JD(S) and the Congress.

The Congress also feels that the promise to ban the Bajrang Dal will attract a major chunk of civil society and young voters in the state. Besides proposing to ban the Bajrang Dal, the Congress also promised to restore the four per cent Muslim quota scrapped by the BJP government.

Regardless of the party’s confidence, however, a section in the Congress believes the move has the “potential to work as a double-edged sword”. While it may consolidate the Muslim votebank, it could also alienate the majority community from the party.

After the Congress’ poll promise to act against the Bajrang Dal, the BJP and other Sangh Parivar units have swung into action to put the Congress on the mat over the issue. For the saffron outfits, “dharma is in danger”. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress of trying to “lock up” worshippers of Hanuman, state chief minister Basavaraj Bommai warned: “If the devotees of Lord Hanuman rise, the Congress will be wiped out from the nation.” He claimed that the Bajrang Dal “upholds the country’s heritage, culture, history and religion”. The BJP described the Congress’ poll plank as a “PFI manifesto”. The Bajrang Dal has decided to conduct “Hanuman Chalisa” recital programmes across Karnataka on Thursday.

It may be recalled that the Congress manifesto stated: “We believe that the Constitution is sacrosanct and cannot be violated by individuals and organisations like the Bajrang Dal, PFI or others promoting enmity or hatred, whether among the majority or minority communities.”

Speaking to this newspaper, a Congress functionary from Karnataka felt that the poll assurance to ban the Bajrang Dal, which was being viewed as a “regressive force”, would attract first-time voters among liberal-minded youth in the state. It was argued that the Bajrang Dal’s activities had “disturbed” the cosmopolitan nature of Karnataka. The Congress’ poll manifesto has sent a clear signal that the party was going to “fight the terror unleashed by the Bajrang Dal”.

The Congress is, however, well aware that the planned move against the Bajrang Dal could hurt the party to an extent in coastal Karnataka. Incidentally, coastal Karnataka has been a BJP bastion. The region is often called the “Hindutva lab” of Karnataka, a Congress leader said. Of the 19 Assembly seats in three coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada, the BJP had won 16 seats, leaving only three for the Congress, in the last Assembly elections. The Congress’ spin doctors felt while coastal Karnataka could remain a BJP bastion, the party was going to record “major gains” in north and central Karnataka.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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