The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM primes flock for cow clash

New Delhi, Feb. 18: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave an earful to the BJP MPs from Madhya Pradesh for not countering Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh’s anti-cow slaughter campaign “effectively”.

When the BJP parliamentary party held a routine meeting this morning, Uma Bharti, Kailash Joshi, Prahlad Patel and others complained that Digvijay was making Youth Congress workers carry out a “low-level” campaign against their party on the cow-slaughter issue.

They brought to Vajpayee’s notice a poster allegedly put up by the Congress with the punchline: “Gau hamari mata hai, Atal Bihari khata hai (The cow is our mother, and Atal Bihari eats its meat).”

Uma and the others said Digvijay had charged that beef exports had increased during the NDA regime, so it was time the Centre brought a legislation for a summary ban on the slaughter of all bovine species.

According to BJP sources, Vajpayee shot back: “What have you done to counter the canard against me in that poster'”

One of the MPs reportedly said they had organised protests and demonstrations. “This is not enough,” Vajpayee said.

He regretted the Madhya Pradesh BJP’s failure to contest the Congress’ personal allegation against him. An MP said they were awaiting a cue from the party’s central leadership, BJP sources said.

Vajpayee demanded to know why they were “so apologetic” about Digvijay’s campaign. “You people are panicking. It’s election time and instead of standing up and answering the charges, you are looking apologetic,” he said.

The Prime Minister told the MPs to take the Congress head-on on their home turf instead of complaining to the BJP parliamentary party.

Vajpayee said his government had banned beef exports and it was wrong of the Madhya Pradesh government to say it had gone up.

He, however, said nothing about bringing in a legislation against cow slaughter.

BJP sources said they were doubtful if such a law was tenable because cow slaughter was on the Concurrent List of the Constitution. As a result, the states would have to be consulted before a law was framed. Other than West Bengal, Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh, cow slaughter is banned in other states.

The BJP hardliners believed such a legislation would help them “electorally” and cited the Kanchi sankaracharya’s reported insistence on a law to buttress their point.

The seer had reportedly sought a law banning cow slaughter when he recently met Vajpayee to discuss Ayodhya.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said that a separate cell was being created to monitor MPs’ performance inside and outside Parliament.

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