Congress leaders on Wednesday appeared to be divided on a ban on the Bajrang Dal in Karnataka after the party promised “firm and decisive” action against the Hindutva group in its manifesto for the state elections.

In the manifesto released on Tuesday, Congress had said: “Constitution...cannot be violated by individuals and organisations like Bajrang Dal, PFI [Popular Front of India] or others promoting enmity or hatred...We will take decisive action as per law including imposing a ban on any such organisation.”

Amid a controversy on the announcement, Congress leader Veerappa Moily said that state governments do not have the power to ban organisations, The Hindu reported.

Moily said that if the Bajrang Dal acts lawfully, then it should not fear a ban. The senior leader added that the proposal made in the Congress manifesto reflected the Supreme Court’s directions asking state governments to register cases against instances of hate speech even if no complaint is filed.

In contrast to what Moily said, Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah said that the party will ban organisations “that have indulged in hate politics and create unhappiness” in the society.

In an interview to the South First news website, Siddaramaiah said: “Bajrang Dal is always involved in hate politics. That is why we said we will take action. If they do not indulge in hate politics, then we aren’t going to take any action against them.”

Madhu Bangarappa, the vice president of the Congress’ manifesto committee, said that the party had deliberately mentioned the names of Bajrang Dal and Popular Front of India to make its “intentions clear”, The Hindu reported.

Another party leader and former chief minister Jagdish Shettar on Friday reiterated Moily’s view that the banning a body fell under the central government’s powers. “Veerappa Moily clarified that there is no question of banning Bajrang Dal,” Shettar told ANI.

Congress’ comments on the Bajrang Dal has drawn sharp criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress of insulting Hindu deity Hanuman – also known as Bajrang Bali.

At an election rally, Modi had said that the Congress was “trying to lock up those who worship Lord Hanuman” and alleged that this was similar to party’s earlier decision to “lock up Lord Ram”– a reference to the Ram temple-Babri mosque dispute in Ayodhya, The Indian Express reported.

BJP leader burns Congress manifesto

On Thursday, BJP leader KS Eshwarappa burnt a copy of the election manifesto of the Congress over its proposal to ban Bajrang Dal if it came to power in Karnataka, reported PTI.

He also compared the Congress party’s manifesto to that of the Muslim League – which was founded by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

“How dare they [Congress] have the courage to talk about banning Bajrang Dal,” Eshwarappa said.

Bajrang Dal workers vandalise Congress office in Jabalpur

A group of Bajrang Dal workers also vandalised the Congress’ office in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur city to protest against the party’s manifesto promise, ANI reported.

A video of the incident was shared widely on social media.

On the vandalism, Congress leader KK Mishra said: “Vandalism, murder, hooliganism and checking of women’s identities in Garba are all that Bajrang Dal does. The CM [Shivraj Singh Chouhan] says that Bajrang Dal is a nationalist. It has not been even 24 hours yet, he should say if his nationalists act like this.”

Mishra said that if the chief minister believes the Bajrang Dal is a nationalist organisation, he should issue a circular stating that the children of all ministers should join it.