It isn't unusual for politicians to turn to prayers during elections but ruling BJP has stoked a controversy by announcing that its workers will recite 'Hanuman Chalisa' twice every week near the 2000 polling booths in Ratlam Lok Sabha seat ahead of bypoll there.
An outraged opposition alleged that BJP was trying to polarise voters as the so-called "Modi wave" was now over.
"We are reciting 'Hanuman Chalisa' (hymns in prayer of Lord Hanuman' on Tuesdays and Saturdays near the 2,000-odd polling booths of the ST reserved Ratlam Lok Sabha (formerly known as Ratlam-Jhabua) constituency," party's state executive member Daulat Bhawsar said.
The elections are like a "mahayudh" (big war) and no one should feel offended if the name of Lord Hanuman, who is as 'sankatmochan' or the trouble-shooter, is recited before going to the battlefield, Bhawsar said.
"It brings our party cadres under one roof and promotes unity and interaction, which are required to win elections," he said.
One of the principles of BJP is to promote cultural nationalism, "so we are doing it by means of 'Hanuman Chalisa", Bhawsar told PTI.
He refuted allegations that they were dragging the name of Lord Hanuman to communalise the election and polarise voters.
"What is the harm if a Christian takes the name of Jesus or a Muslim praises Allah?," he asked.
"We are going to continue reciting Hanuman Chalisa till elections," the BJP leader said.
However, the Congress criticised the BJP's move. "BJP is looking up to heavens as the Modi wave is now over. Besides, the tribals have come to know the real face of BJP after the expose of the Vyapam scam - a major recruitment and admission scandal in MP," Congress' former MLA from Jhabua, Javier Meda said.
The by-election for Ratlam LS seat, spread over eight Assembly constituencies of Ratlam, Jhabua and Alirajpur districts, was necessitated following the death of Dilip Singh Bhuria, a prominent tribal face of BJP, last month.
The seat had been the forte of Congress since Independence. But last time around, former Union Minister and Congress nominee Kantilal Bhuria lost the election to BJP's Dilip Singh Bhuria by a margin of 1.12 lakh votes. Prior to it, the Congress had lost the election from the seat to Praja Socialist Party (PSP) in 1977.
Meanwhile, state CPI(M) secretary Badal Saroj alleged that, "RSS is polarising the Hindu votes in Ratlam where at least its 2,500 whole-timers have been deployed. Ratlam constituency has become the laboratory of RSS."