Budhni, Madhya Pradesh: Touring villages in Budhni assembly constituency in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Vikram Mastal – who played the role of ‘Hanuman’ in the TV adaptation of Ramayana in 2008-09 – greeted voters by joining hands and chanting “Jai Siya Ram, Jai Hanuman”. Welcome with slogans. Congress has fielded Mastal against four-time Chief Minister of the state Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the elections to be held on November 17.
Promising to give a tough fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s top leader in the state, Mastal, who describes himself as a native of Budhni in Sehore district, says this is the first time that a local has been fielded against Chouhan. Has gone. Dressed in a white kurta and an orange scarf around his neck, he says that the BJP does not have any “patent” on Shri Ram.
As he moves ahead for the campaign, religious songs play in the background. The announcer introduces him to people by emphasizing that he has played the character of Hanuman in Ramayana.
Mastal himself calls the “people” as “Ram” and says that he wants to serve them as “Hanuman”.
“Those who believe in Ram, Ram belongs to them. BJP does not have a patent on Ram. If there are so many people who believe in Ram then mother cow is on the road, if you insult her then you don’t see Ram?”
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He told ThePrint, “It is very good that the Ram temple is being built (in Ayodhya); Nobody has any problem with this. But you (BJP) are not making Ram. Ram has existed since time immemorial. Has Ram ji given you any certificate? This entire country believes in Ram.”
BJP has made the construction of Ram temple a major election issue in Madhya Pradesh. Posters have been put up across the state, on which it is written – ‘Grand Ram temple is getting ready, again this time BJP government’.
Addressing a public meeting in Chhindwara on October 29 during his three-day visit to the state, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that MP will celebrate Diwali thrice in the coming months: on the festival day, on the day of assembly election results. And on January 22 next year, when the temple will be inaugurated in Ayodhya.
Shah had also accused the previous Congress governments at the Center of delaying and stopping the construction of the Ram temple, saying that it was only because of the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government that the Ram temple took shape.
Madhya Pradesh BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai says, “Even today, a Congress candidate is forced to start his campaign with Jai Siya Ram! Unlike Congress, we have full faith in Shri Ram and the construction of Ram temple is proof of this. Shivraj Singh Chauhan will once again win the seat with an overwhelming majority.”
Chhindwara, where Shah had mentioned three Diwalis, is considered the stronghold of Congress leader and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath. Kamal Nath is known as a Hanuman devotee and built a temple with a 101 feet tall statue of Hanuman in Simaria village of Chhindwara.
It was Kamal Nath who had included Mastal in Congress on July 4 this year.
When his ticket was announced, Congress also released a 38-second video of Mastal, in which he was standing in front of Lord Ram in the form of ‘Hanuman’ and asking for further instructions. The video further shows Lord Ram instructing Hanuman to ensure the victory of “Bhakt Kamal Nath” in Madhya Pradesh.
Also read: ‘What do Congress and BJP posters show and what do they hide’ in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh
Taking aim at CM Shivraj, Mastal alleged, “Shivraj ji is the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and there has been no development in his own constituency. There is no medical college in this constituency and even after 20 years, only one medical college has been announced by Chouhan ji. There is no education hub here, no engineering or nursing college. If someone falls ill, he has to travel two hours to Bhopal to get treatment. Is this what we call development?”
He claims that despite Budhni being a high-profile constituency, the local people who are not able to get their problems resolved are now coming forward in large numbers to support the Congress.
“I will take my last breath here. I am a farmer’s son. I was doing social service but not marketing; These BJP people are experts in marketing themselves without doing any work.
Asked whether he got the Congress ticket only because he played the role of Hanuman, Mastal told ThePrint that he is a “local” and has been talking about “youth and farmers”.
“I come from a farmer family. It was my good fortune to play the role of Hanuman. I was born on Tuesday and entered politics also on Tuesday. This is the grace of Hanuman ji and he will take care of everything. The public is Ram for me and I want to serve them as Hanuman.”
“BJP uses religion in politics. We work only for the public. The sole objective of Congress is to serve. I am going among the public. Seeing the condition of Budhni today – youth are upset, women and farmers are also upset – I feel that this time the public is very angry. Only truth will prevail. Ram belongs to everyone, no one has a certificate for Ram.”
Criticizing it for using ‘soft-Hindutva’ as an election plank in Madhya Pradesh ahead of the elections, the BJP has accused the Congress of ‘Bajrang Bali’ since its victory in the Karnataka assembly elections earlier this year. There is also an allegation of gathering votes in the name.
Following outrage over Congress’ promise to ban pro-Hindutva organizations like Bajrang Dal in the Karnataka election manifesto, the party had promised construction and renovation of Hanuman temples in the state. After the party’s victory, party workers took part in the celebrations dressed as Hanuman.
In Budhni, BJP is confident that there will be no such electoral upset.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan has been winning from Budhni continuously since 2006.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior BJP leader said, “This is the stronghold of BJP and Shivraj ji has been winning from this seat for years. Although Congress has also won this seat several times, this seat has been a stronghold of BJP for a long time.”
He says that Congress may have grabbed headlines by fielding Mastal from this seat, but it is not likely to translate into votes. “Everyone knows what the outcome (of this election) will be,” he told ThePrint.
(Editing: Shiv Pandey)
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Also read: ‘Congress calls me a traitor, BJP is my family’, Jyotiraditya Scindia praised CM Shivraj