The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma cow test for Digvijay

Bhopal, March 5: The beef battle nearly came to a head today when Uma Bharti “stormed” a gaushala inauguration and challenged Digvijay Singh to prove his cow credentials.

The BJP leader entered the function “uninvited” at Travali in Bairasiya tehsil of her parliamentary constituency of Bhopal. The chief minister and Swami Satyamitranand, a former sankaracharya and religious figure from Hardwar and Mandsaur, were the guests of honour.

Once Bharti arrived, the organisers called her on to the stage and gave her the mike soon after Satyamitranand declared Digvijay a model chief minister full of concern for the “sacred cow”.

Bharti immediately disagreed and asked Digvijay if he would write to “madam” Sonia Gandhi asking her to support a central legislation on banning cow slaughter nationwide.

She challenged Digvijay to quit the Congress like a “good, devout sanatan dharmi” if he failed to convince Sonia.

As Digvijay rose to give a “befitting reply”, Satyamitranand grabbed the mike and urged Bharti not to “politicise” the issue.

The Swami’s “middle path” failed to convince Bharti, who asked how he could give a clean chit to Digvijay during whose regime incidents of cow slaughter had “gone up”.

As she reeled out “statistics” to prove her point, Satyamitranand resorted to his “moral authority” and urged the rival leaders to coax their political masters to push through a central law.

“Let there be no politics on cows. We as a nation are committed to their cause. You (Digvijay) work in Vidhan Sabha and you (Bharti) use your influence in Parliament to bring about a central legislation banning cow slaughter,” the Swami said.

The crowd, taken aback by the Bharti onslaught at a Digvijay show, applauded, allaying the fears of the organisers who did not want either the chief minister or the BJP leader embarrassed.

Satyamitranand, however, tilted towards Bharti when he regretted Digvijay’s stance on the Bhojshala and the Ganjbasoda incidents. Many “innocent Hindus”, he said, were arrested in Ganjbasoda for allegedly fomenting trouble over a cow slaughter and in Dhar over the mandir-masjid dispute.

Back in Bhopal, he got down to a “damage limitation” exercise. Satyamitranand told a few journalists: “I was witness to the verbal spat, but I wish to emphasise again and again that it is pointless scoring political points on an issue like cow protection. Both sides, the Congress and the BJP, should come together.”

Satyamitranand then again criticised Digvijay’s policies on Bhojshala and the general treatment of those fighting for the “Hindu cause”.

On cow protection, however, Satyamitranand gave Digvijay a clean chit and asserted his track record was “much better” than those of chief ministers of other states.

Sources close to Bharti justified her unannounced visit to the modern gaushala named after Lord Krishna, claiming as a public representative she was within her rights to attend a function, which was organised by former BJP MLA Laxmi Narain Sharma.

The Bharti camp drove home its point, saying she handed out Rs 2 lakh for the gaushala from her MP local area development funds and Bairasiya was part of her Parliamentary seat.

Digvijay supporters overlooked Bharti’s uninvited appearance and said there was nothing wrong in her visit, only she should not have tried to score a “political point” on cow protection. In the process, they said, Bharti embarrassed the “revered Swamiji”.

Carrying on the one-upmanship, the chief minister’s camp said Digvijay donated Rs 4 lakh to construct the Travali temple.

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