BJP to placate hardliners in Gujarat

The Gujarat government’s move to make the cow protection law stricter in the state indicates that the government and the BJP are planning to go into the state Assembly elections flaunting more aggressive Hindutva positions. Gujarat is scheduled to have Assembly elections towards the end of this year. The party will face the elections under the leadership of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who replaced Ananadiben Patel six months ago. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the star campaigner, the new state leadership has much to prove in the elections. Rupani announced recently that the proposed law will make cow slaughter and transportation of beef punishable with life term, instead of a jail term of up to seven years and a fine of Rs 50,000 prescribed by the existing law. The present law, which imposed a complete ban on cow slaughter and transportation and sale of beef, was enacted in 2011 when Modi was the chief minister.

What the new law seeks to do is to bring cow protection again into the focus for electoral ends. The law is already strict. Implementation by the government and actions of vigilante groups have ensured that there is no slaughter of cows and transportation of beef in the state. But the proposed law will increase the fear and scare, and thus strengthen the ideological and fundamentalist credentials of the government. It will make it more difficult for people who skin dead cows and eat their meat to prove their innocence. The assault by vigilantes on Dalits and others who skinned a dead cow in Una in the state last year had become a national scandal. Protests by Dalits after the incident had put the state government on the defensive. But it is consciously returning to the theme to please the party’s hardcore following in the state.

The BJP and its governments cannot be expected to learn any lessons from the debate on cow slaughter and beef eating. Beef is a cheap source of protein for large sections of poor people, including Dalits. Activities which are related to it provide livelihood to large numbers. Old and abandoned cows are a major problem. But politics and ideology have trumped these realities. The Gujarat government will face an election amidst uncertainties created by the agitation by the Patidar community for reservation and dissatisfaction among some other sections. It is making a harsh statement with the proposed law. But it will also have to reckon with the reactions of the victims of the anti-beef campaigns who may feel more threatened and insecure than in the past.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry