Arun Govil, who essayed the role of Lord Ram in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday. The actor came back in spotlight during nationwide coronavirus lockdown when the epic TV show was rerun, and broke all previous records to become one of the most watched entertainment shows worldwide.
“Some people are not ready to understand. They have some sort of allergy. They have to understand that Lord Ram is our ideal. Why would you want to resist? This will be fatal for nation building. This country belongs to Lord Ram,” he said while joining.
Govil’s joining can push BJP’s political aspirations further as most of the party leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, always begin their rally address with the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ — a character played by Govil that made him a household name.
Jai Shri Ram literally means victory to Lord Ram, he prince of Ayodhya mentioned in various versions of Ramayana. However, in recent times, more than religious, the slogan has turned political with parties bickering over it.
During Lok Sabha election, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was seen stopping her car to slam those shouting Jai Shri Ram. Her irritation with the slogan has taken an unusual turn with opponents easing her by shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ if they see her at an event.
In January this year, in the run up to Bengal assembly elections, Banerjee refused to speak at an official event attended by PM Modi to mark the beginning of the celebrations of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s 124th birth anniversary after ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans were raised just before she was to start her address.
Days later, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath wondered why would a chant upset anyone. “Ek aam aadmi ke liye, ‘Jai Shri Ram’ bolna ek shistachar ka sambodhan hain… (For a common man, saying ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is a gesture of etiquette). We are not forcing it on anyone. If someone does ‘namaskar’ or greets in his native language or says ‘Jai Shri Ram’, why should anyone feel bad about it,” said CM Adityanath during an interaction with reporters in Lucknow.
He also told an election rally in Bengal that Banerjee gets livid at the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and now she has started visiting temples and is reciting ‘Chandi path’, an ode to Goddess Durga.
A day ago, the Bengal chief minister told Adivasi population of Jhargram district that BJP will not allow them to take the name of ‘Marang Buru’, whom the Santhals consider as the supreme source of power, but they will have to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Glory to Lord Ram).
“They (BJP) are saying that you will not be able to practise your religion, you will have to chant Jai Shri Ram. But you will not be able to say Jai Siya Ram,” Banerjee said. “Ram performed the puja of Devi Durga (in the Ramayana). Maa Durga is much superior to Ram, that is why he worshipped Maa Durga,” the West Bengal chief minister told the meeting.
A report in India Today stated that it is not yet clear when Jai Shri Ram entered the political space but it came to be identified with the BJP around the 1990-92 Ram temple movement, which was launched by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) — an extended arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) family. An active participant in the temple movement was BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani and his protege Narendra Modi.
But before the BJP made Jai Shri Ram slogan as its own, it was already in popular use in late 1980s courtesy the TV serial Ramayan produced by filmmaker Ramanand Sagar. The slogan, Jai Shri Ram was used in the TV serial as a battle cry by Hanuman and others in Lord Ram’s expedition against Ravan, the king of Lanka who had abducted Sita, the wife of Ram.