The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cow reigns in tiger territory
(Top) Digvijay Singh, Uma Bharati: In a 'cow' fight

Bhopal, July 29: Madhya Pradesh is home to more than a fifth of the world’s tigers and to the rare Barasingha (swamp deer), the state’s official animal, but the cow rules the state.

In election-bound Madhya Pradesh, the cow symbolises all that is politically correct.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh and chief ministerial aspirant Uma Bharti are in a cut-throat race to prove their love for the animal.

When Uma sought a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, Digvijay declared that he was a habitual drinker of cow urine, eulogising its therapeutic values.

Now, to a question from BJP legislator Narotam Mishra in the Assembly, minister Shiv Narayan Meena has readily declared that the cow might be named the state’s new official animal.

Wildlife enthusiasts in the state that has 21 per cent of the country’s forest cover, 11 national parks and 32 wildlife sanctuaries — famous for the white tiger, Barasingha, leopard, Sambhar, black buck and wild buffalo — are not amused.

Kanha national park is the only place in peninsular India where the Barasingha, with its short coat, light colour, slight build and fine antlers, can still be found. Its numbers were down to 66 in 1970, but have risen to 400 after careful management.

The tiger population in Madhya Pradesh has increased to 711 and the number of leopards to 1,086, minister of forests Harvansh Singh said.

But the cow overshadows them all. Meena said the state’s first-of-its-kind Gau Sewa Aayog (Cow Welfare Commission) has recommended that the cow should be declared the official animal instead of the Barasingha.

The “Love 4 Cow” society, headed by former director-general of police S.C. Tripathi, has gone a step further and demanded that the cow be named the country’s official animal as millions consider it an “important family member”.

With the November elections drawing nearer, it is a common sight in Bhopal to see one or the other group owing allegiance to the Congress or the BJP sitting on dharna to demand a better deal for cows.

The docile animal has created more than a fair share of controversy. Some time ago, the Congress launched a campaign against the Prime Minister, pointing out that beef exports had gone up during the BJP’s rule at the Centre. The slogan, “Gau hamari mata hai, Atal Bihari gau mans khata hai (cow is our mother, Atal Bihari eats beef)”, had Vajpayee up in arms, forcing the Congress to apologise and withdraw the campaign.

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