THE DELHI ELECTION has not been very kind to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In the astral plane, it has not been very kind to Ram. For a god who has for decades been having the BJP’s back, ever since the party co-opted him in full measure following a hugely popular television serial in 1980s, the Delhi election has put a question on his efficacy. Despite the precisely timed announcement just before voting of the formation of the trust that would build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, voters remained unmoved. But what is most egregious, if you were in the sandals of Ram, is that the deity that trounced him in Delhi was Hanuman, who is no more than a servile devotee.
The man responsible for thus shaking the equations of the heavens is Arvind Kejriwal. The BJP had not taken it lightly when during a television interview to a Hindi channel, he had claimed to be a Hanuman bhakt and knew by heart the Hanuman Chalisa, a popular hymn to the deity. He had even recited it as proof. And a day later, Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister in whose state Ram was born and his mandir is going to be built, had mocked his faith saying after Kejriwal, the Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi would also chant the Hanuman Chalisa. Another BJP leader tweeted that Kejriwal was a ‘seasonal bhakt’. But the proof in the godly pudding is always in the ballot count and the results indicate that either Hanuman felt affronted that his devotee was being mocked, or that the BJP was not taking him seriously enough as a god worth calling on for assistance. Or, you could even stretch it a little further, he might be sending a message to Yogi Adityanath even if Owaisi were to recite the Hanuman Chalisa, what business is it of Adityanath, a common human, to be Hanuman’s gatekeeper. It was not just Kejriwal’s faith in Hanuman that was vindicated but Hanuman’s in him because after the victory, he thanked the God and went to his temple to ensure that the blessings keep coming. The BJP, meanwhile, still hadn’t learnt the lesson with its leader Kailash Vijayvargiya mocking Kejriwal again saying that he should now get Hanuman Chalisa taught in schools. Don’t be surprised if Kejriwal does it.
Hanuman is an essential character in the Ramayana but his antecedents could go earlier. A hymn in the Rig Veda speaks of a monkey getting the offerings that was Indra’s, and interestingly, when Indra’s wife complains, he tells her it is fine. There are also theories that he was originally a non-Aryan deity, co-opted into what would later become Hinduism. The Ramayana itself is a dynamic myth, with numerous versions of it being written. From the original Valmiki Ramayana, Hanuman keeps growing in importance in the story. Such evolution of gods is common and the BJP, in not appreciating it, seems to be somewhat handicapping itself. Its use of Ram as a political and religious symbol was highly successful but also fortuitous. If the history of Hinduism shows us anything, it is that the gods who become ever more popular are those in the lower pantheons. The simple reason is that the common Hindu, while believing in the gods of the highest rung, has a better relationship with the ‘under-gods’. He wants a family member rid of a disease, he turns to Ganapati. He wants a wish fulfilled, he walks to Sabarimala. When Kejriwal asks for Hanuman’s help to win an election, it is the most understandable relationship of a devotee to a god. When the BJP mocks him for it, a lot of Hindus would be wondering what is the fault here.
Did Kejriwal exhibit his devotion to Hanuman deliberately as a campaign manoeuvre? Is he a real Hanuman bhakt? There is really no reason for it to be an either-or, as the BJP tried and failed to project. He could very well be both and what is the danger in it if he continues to build schools and keeps gropers away from buses. With their overreaction, the BJP however helped him wean away some of the monopoly that they had assumed in the ownership of Hindu gods.