The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress, Left cry wolf at cow sneak-in

New Delhi, March 11: The Congress and the Left parties used sheer lung power today to foil a BJP attempt to sneak in a non-official resolution in the Lok Sabha seeking a legislative ban on cow slaughter nationwide.

Far outnumbered by the treasury benches, the Opposition protested against the resolution on technical grounds and accused the Centre of trying to become a party to the BJP members’ move. As a result, the resolution could not be put to vote.

After 90 minutes of chaos, including 15 minutes of sloganeering and a rush to the well of the House, the chair adjourned proceedings at 6 pm.

Some BJP leaders tried in vain to cajole the chair to extend the sitting. The Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who was in the chair, adjourned the House an hour ahead of schedule, citing “disorder” and “utter chaos”.

The BJP’s Uma Bharti and Union minister I.D. Swami later said they had not abandoned the resolution, which is “still live” and would be put to vote at a date decided by the business advisory committee.

For Bharti, in charge of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, cow slaughter is an emotive poll plank she is using to put Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh in the dock. She said Digvijay had written to the Prime Minister, seeking a ban on cow slaughter.

Earlier in the day, Bharti walked out of the House after Speaker Manohar Joshi refused to let her talk on the alleged irregularities in the Madhya Pradesh voters’ list.

The private member’s resolution on the ban, moved by the BJP’s Prahlad Singh Patel, was taken up in the evening after finance minister Jaswant Singh had answered the discussion on the general budget and most Opposition members had left the House.

The treasury benches, however, were unusually full even then, indicating the BJP’s clear strategy to outnumber the Opposition.

In the afternoon, when Jaswant was still speaking, parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was seen asking party members in the corridors to return to the House.

When the resolution was taken up for voting, Congress and Left MPs rushed to the well and stayed there till the House was adjourned. They shouted: “BJP ki tanashahi nahin chalegi, Samvidhan ki hatya nahin chalegi (BJP’s autocracy and violation of the Constitution will not be allowed).”

To prevent adjournment of the House, most members in the BJP benches refused to counter the slogans. Some such as Kirti Azad, who tried to take on the Opposition, were restrained by Bharti, the main strategist behind the resolution move.

The Opposition, however, saw through the ploy and stayed put in the well till the House was adjourned.

The BJP’s allies were conspicuous by their absence. Other than the Shiv Sena and a lone Biju Janata Dal member, no other coalition partners were around. The lone Samata Party member, Raghunath Jha, who supported the resolution, walked out before it was put to vote.

The Opposition charged the BJP with trying to encroach on a state subject and said the House was not competent to adopt the resolution.

Earlier, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Shivraj Patil cited the Constitution and said a cow slaughter ban was covered neither by the Union nor the concurrent lists.

Swaraj asserted that unlike in the case of Bills, the House had the power to vote on a resolution. “The intention is only to express the sentiments of the House and impress upon the Centre and the states to enact laws to ban cow slaughter,” she said.

The resolution, the minister said, had already passed the test of admissibility as the Speaker had listed it and allowed a discussion. “Why is the Opposition questioning it at this point'”

Patil said the resolution sought a suitable legislation to ban cow slaughter, not just a directive to the states. Only Assemblies, he said, are empowered to legislate on issues covered by the state list.

He said his party favoured a ban on cow slaughter, referring to the ban in place in several Congress-ruled states.

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