Debating India


Allies make BJP climb down the cow

Express News Service

Thursday 21 August 2003

Article paru dans The Indian Express, ?dition du 21 ao?t 2003.

TDP, Trinamool, JD (U), PMK, Left, RJD all oppose, Govt agrees to all-party meeting

New Delhi, August 21: Angry NDA members and allies on Thursday forced the Government to put on hold the controversial Bill banning cow slaughter across the country. But the BJP, keen on pushing the Bill ahead of the Assembly elections, took heart from the fact that the message had gone out: the move to bring in a law against cow slaughter was being opposed by other parties.

As soon as Agriculture Minister Rajnath Singh rose to introduce the Bill in the Lok Sabha, NDA partners and supporters - TDP, Trinamool, JD (U), DMK, PMK, MDMK - joined the Left and RJD in protesting the Bill. Congress MPs sat quietly and watched BJP and Shiv Sena counter the opposition.

TDP’s Yerran Naidu and Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee - the parties are not in the Government - said the Bill should not be introduced because they had not been consulted. On the other hand, the DMK, PMK and the MDMK opposed the very concept of banning cow slaughter.

Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi was forced to adjourn the House for ten minutes. Later, when the House re-assembled, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that it was decided to introduce the Bill only after calling an all-party meeting to build consensus on the issue.

Shiv Sena member Chandrakant Khaire said his party was all for the Bill because the ’’cow is our mother.’’ This prompted an angry retort from G M Banatwalla of the Muslim League: ’’It’s an election stunt.’’

It was Yerran Naidu who took the initiative to bring together all allies opposed to the Bill. Ahead of the Bill’s introduction, he spoke to Mamata Banerjee and leaders of the DMK, MDMK, JD(U) and PMK and told them to be vocal on not being consulted.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who met Prime Minister Vajpayee, complained he was not consulted by the Government. ’’Sensitive issues must be taken up only after evolving consensus. Some people eat beef. It has economic implications. Besides, it is a state subject. They should first consult all states. If all states agree, they can go ahead with the legislation,’’ he said.

DMK leader S S Palanimanickam said his party was against the ban on cow slaughter. ’’The ban affects minorities, SCs and STs who are accustomed to eating beef.’’ He said that the Government should have discussed the Bill with the allies before attempting its introduction.

Mamata Banerjee said she was opposed to the Bill because the Government had not consulted its allies. When she was asked whether she favoured a ban on cow slaughter, Mamata was evasive. She did, however, say that many people in West Bengal and the North-East states consume beef.

But the Congress dilemma was there for all to see. Party MPs sat quietly in the Lok Sabha as NDA members, allies protested. Later, Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy said: ’’In principle, we are in favour of the cow slaughter ban but since it’s a state subject, a constitutional amendment is required to bring it on the Concurrent List.’’ He was of the view that the ban on cow slaughter was an issue best left to the states.

Although Reddy denied there were differences within his party on the Bill, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh is in favour of the Bill - he has even made the cow the official state animal - but Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony is opposed to such a ban. North East chief ministers too do want the ban because beef consumption is high in their states.

The BJP, on its part, was happy that the Government had moved to introduce the Bill. BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra conceded that NDA partners did differ on the issue. ’’But we will sort out these problems.’’

He said the cow slaughter ban was not an issue in the common minimum programme for governance.

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