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NEW DELHI: Yesterday afternoon, members of the Karni Sena in Rajasthan broke out into lusty cheers, began to sing and dance with wild abandon, set off loud Diwali fireworks and generally created celebratory mayhem.
No, ‘Padmaavat’ wasn’t banned, nor did the BJP government at the Centre make any special budgetary concessions to assuage the wounded egos of this self-proclaimed ‘Rajput pride’ gang. It merely lost.
That is, the BJP lost three crucial bypolls in the land of the Rajputs. It wasn’t able to retain any of the seats that elections were held for earlier this week. Yesterday’s results saw all three seats going to the rival Congress party.
That was the reason ‘Rajput pride’ outfits, including the Karni Sena and others, gathered at Rajput Sabha Bhavan – to celebrate the Congress party’s victory in the Lok Sabha seats of Ajmer and Alwar, and the Mandalgarh Rajasthan Assembly seat.
The BJP governments at the Centre and in Rajasthan “betrayed the Rajput community on the issue of Padmaavat” and for that they got their just deserts, said the Karni Sena and other groups of its ilk, who wanted the film banned for “disrespecting” the Rajput community.
“The BJP’s defeat in the bypolls is a result of the ruling party’s disregard for Rajput sentiments,” said Karni Sena members.
They and their supporters had been up in arms – often with actual missives like sticks and stones – for months, agitating for the Centre and the state of Rajasthan (and some other states) to ban ‘Padmaavat’.
On its Twitter account, a group called ‘Rajput World News’ said, “Bhansali cost the BJP dearly in the Rajasthan bypolls”. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is the person who helmed ‘Padmaavat’.
A Twitter account purporting to be that of the ‘Shri Rajput Karni Sena’ retweeted that tweet, complete with an illustration of a red sari-clad woman standing (untouched) in the middle of a flaming pyre surrounded by wraiths bowing to her with respect.
भांड भंसाली की वजह से भाजपा को राजस्थान के उपचुनावों में भारी कीमत चुकानी पड़ी। Because of Bhand #Bhansali Today… https://t.co/OV8FCFKDUQ
— Rajput World News (@RajputWorldNews)
It’s this same Twitter account – that of the Shri Rajput Karni Sena’ – which tweeted saying the Karni Sena had nothing to do with attacking a school bus filled with children in Gurgaon a day before ‘Padmaavat’ released.
But it was groups like this one or its unnamed supporters who often violently protested the release of ‘Padmaavat’ and called for its ban without having seen it, especially in the run-up to its January 25 release.
These ‘Rajput pride’ groups tried, hard, and even found political support.
Several BJP Union and state ministers publicly came out against the film and in support of the Karni Sena. A few Congressmen and members of other opposition parties also voiced their support for ban. But the central government itself issued no official statement on its stand toward the film.
The agitators took their ‘pride battle’ to some high courts and eventually the Supreme Court. The apex court said “no” to the ban the agitators asked for, waxed eloquent about the sanctity of the freedom to expression and even admonished repeat petitioners for disregarding its verdicts.
That is the reason the BJP lost, said the ‘Rajput pride’ groups yesterday, and that is the reason to celebrate. Some of them said they weren’t celebrating a Congress victory, per se, they were celebrating a BJP loss.
Somebody called Sudhakar Singh Vishen Majhauli, who calls himself a member of the Maharashtra division of the Karni Sena, said the following in Hindi on his Twitter account:
“This isn’t joy that the Congress won, nor is it sadness the BJP lost, that’s not our concern — our concern is that this is a war for the Rajputs’ pride.”
#ना__कांग्रेस के जीतने की खुशी है…ना भाजपा के हारने के गम ….क्या करें ये है स्वाभिमान की जंग ……… https://t.co/E5lMXKzpAx
— सुधाकर सिंह विशेन मझौली (@sudhakar_singhv)
The Karni Sena also let loose the following comment full of grim foreboding for political parties in the run-up to the state elections in Rajasthan and the 2019 national elections.
“This is not the victory of a party, it is the victory of our ‘Sangharsh Samiti’. Public supported our ‘Sangharsh’ (struggle) and voted against BJP. If BJP follows the same trend, the results will remain the same,” said a Karni Sena member, to ANI.