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Cow Bill in hand, govt weighs pros and cons

New Delhi, April 25: The Centre has in place a Bill to do away with provisions in state laws that allow “sick, infirm and old” animals to be killed as these are used to send healthy bovines to abattoirs, according to well-placed sources.

The Bill, which seeks to stop such “indiscriminate slaughter” of animals, is likely to be discussed and passed when the Union Cabinet meets next week, said the sources.

However, the government has run into a problem on the modalities and context for introducing the Bill in Parliament if it secures Cabinet approval. “Prima facie, cow slaughter ban is a state subject. However, we can get around this by asking two state governments to write to the Centre for a Central law. This empowers us to bring in a Bill in Parliament,” said sources.

The BJP governments in Gujarat and Goa may be asked to urge for the law.

According to constitutional provisions, the preservation of cattle falls in the State List and, therefore, states have exclusive powers to legislate on the subject, minister of state for agriculture Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha today. “Even then, the Government of India is examining the matter,” added the minister.

The Centre and the BJP are also having second thoughts on the political brownie point they could score by bringing in the law. “At best we can throw the ball in the state governments’ courts and see if they enact similar laws,” said sources. They admitted that the BJP’s prime target in this case was Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

BJP sources, however, said it was becoming increasingly difficult to nail Singh on the Hindutva issue after the embarrassment the party suffered on the “cake controversy”. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharti was put on the backfoot after the Congress alleged that she had offered a cake containing egg at a Hanuman temple and “offended Hindu sentiments”. Bharti has demanded a CBI probe.

Bharti, BJP sources said, was told by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu not to prolong the controversy and make a “laughing stock” of herself.

“At a time when she ought to be cornering the government on development, power and water, she has fallen into Digvijay’s well-laid out trap on religious matters. If she overreacts, we fear she will not be taken seriously by the voters because her image as a rabble-rousing sadhvi, who can only think of cows and Hanuman, will get reinforced,” said sources.

Bharti, said sources, has also failed to get the entire Madhya Pradesh BJP’s support. Birthday celebrations for Indore Lok Sabha member of Parliament Sumitra Mahajan, hosted recently by former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre, became a rallying point for anti-Bharti forces.

What surprised the BJP was the presence of Shivraj Chauhan, a Lok Sabha MP, who is regarded as her confidant. Sources said a furious Bharti called Chauhan when she heard about his presence in the party and ordered him not to “divide his loyalty”.

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