Days after Karnataka’s Animal Husbandry Minister K. Venkatesh had indicated that the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government may rethink the ban on cow slaughter, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Randeep Surjewala reprimanded the Minister and asked him to refrain from making out-of-turn comments.
“I have asked him to focus on dairy farmers and ensure that the farmers get the right price for milk. He should not make out-of-turn comments or decide on policy issues that don’t come under his purview,” Mr. Surjewala said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, even Chief Minister Siddaramaiah hinted at a possible review when he stated that all “anti-farmer” laws including the anti-cow slaughter one would be reviewed. This was after a farmers’ group met him and sought its repeal.
The comment by Mr. Surjewala, who is the AICC’s in-charge for Karnataka, reflects the divide within the party over the issue of ban on cow slaughter. A section of the party argues that any fallout from the decision on cow slaughter would not be restricted to Karnataka alone but will have immediate political ramifications in the Hindi heartland States of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where Assembly elections are scheduled later this year.
In these two Hindi heartland States, the Congress strategy has been not only focused on key issues such price rise and unemployment but it has also aggressively taken on the BJP on the religious turf as well, by organising Sundarkand Paath to pay obeisance to Lord Hanuman in Madhya Pradesh and a global Ramayan festival in Chhattisgarh recently.
And weeks after the Karnataka manifesto likened the Bajrang Dal with the Popular Front of India (PFI) and called for firm action against them including a ban, on Tuesday, former MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath presided over a function that saw an outfit called Bajrang Sena merge with the Congress amid chants of Jai Sri Ram.
That is why the proposed move in Karnataka on cow slaughter has created a sense of unease with a section of the Congress. While the Congress’ Karnataka manifesto didn’t promise removing the ban on cow slaughter if the party came to power, Mr. Venkatesh triggered a debate last week when he questioned the logic of the ban on cow slaughter when there was no such ban on the slaughter of buffaloes.
Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge, son of the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, joined in by stating that the Siddaramaiah government would review not just the ban on cow slaughter but any law, enacted by the previous BJP government, if it had adverse impact on the economy.