With cameras flashing, and a small Hanuman Chalisa in hand, Maharashtra BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis recited the sacred Hindu verse, while presenting the booklet to independent MLA Ravi Rana, after the MVA was given a jolt in the Rajya Sabha elections yesterday.
Rana, whose vote the Maha Vikas Aghadi – an alliance in Maharashtra consisting of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – has asked to be nullified, had ostensibly carried the Hindu booklet while talking to media during the political developments yesterday. He had also recited the verse reportedly ‘101 times’ before the polls began. A video of him reciting the Chalisa at his home was circulated too.
The text is a sacred prayer meant to pray to and honour Hindu deity Hanuman. However, parties in the state now seem to be providing it a political subtext. But how is that?
One does not need to look far in the past. The Hanuman Chalisa controversy, hardly a month old, made headlines in Maharashtra, when Ravi Rana and his wife Navneet Rana said they would recite the verse outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s private residence ‘Matoshree’, which angered workers of the Shiv Sena, Thackeray’s party, leading to tension.
The couple had later dropped the plan, citing a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the city the next day. Apart from the IPC 353, the Ranas were booked under a variety of sections. The police had also slapped section 124-A (sedition) on the Independent lawmaker couple. The couple was granted bail by a special court on May 4.
After coming out of jail, Navneet Rana said she would ‘keep fighting’ for more religious freedom for Hindus in the state. She had also posted a photo on Twitter in saffron clothing a small statue of Hanuman.
— Navneet Ravi Rana (@navneetravirana) May 13, 2022
Now, Fadnavis seems to have jumped into the Hanuman Chalisa symbolism as well. “Those who insulted Hanuman Chalisa lost, and those who respected it and fought for it won,” the BJP leader said, in a reference to MVA’s Rajya Sabha loss. He added that this was just the trailer, and that the picture was yet to fully emerge.
Now, it remains to be seen how the BJP and the Ranas leverage the situation in the times to come.
For now, the BJP is exultant with its victory in Maharashtra. While Devendra Fadnavis has credited meticulous planning as well as team work behind it, the recent political row may have also leveraged the situation in favour of the saffron party.
The BJP had fielded three candidates out of the total six Rajya Sabha seats that went to polls on Friday. BJP candidates – Union minister Piyush Goyal, former state minister Anil Bonde and Dhananjay Mahadik – won the fiercely-fought elections, while Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, NCP’s Praful Patel and Congress’ Imran Pratapgarhi also came out victorious. The contest was for the sixth seat – between BJP’s Mahadik and Sena’s Pawar, who lost. Mahadik and Pawar hail from Kolhapur in western Maharashtra.