The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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If BJP milks a symbol, so will Digvijay

Bhopal, Aug. 11: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh today declared the cow a state animal and urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to give the “sacred animal its due” at the national level.

The declaration came on a day the Union cabinet cleared a bill pertaining to a nationwide ban on cow slaughter.

Digvijay, fresh from a visit to Dhar district where he was greeted with black flags for imposing a community fine on 161 residents for their involvement in communal violence, showered praises on “mother cow” and gave a discourse on “gau vigyan”.

He said 52,000 “barefoot doctors” from villages across the state would be trained on “gau chikasta” (cow medicine) consisting of cow urine, cow dung, milk, ghee and other bovine products.

“Look at the pesticide menace. They are there in colas, in vegetables, everywhere. Why cannot we opt for cow dung and neem as manure'” the mechanical engineer-turned-politician asked.

Swami Prasad Lodhi, the prime mover of this drive, was, however, missing as Digvijay made his speech. Lodhi, better known as Uma Bharti’s elder brother, was away in Kedarnath to celebrate Raksha Bandhan and also his return to the BJP fold. Lodhi, a BJP legislator, had promised to ditch Bharti and his party but developed cold feet at the last moment.

The state agriculture department exhorted virtues of cow products, saying they could effectively combat diseases like cancer.

Digvijay, the department’s brand ambassador, had earlier announced that he is a regular consumer of cow urine. In Bhopal, shops sell cow urine in 100 ml pouches for Rs 5.

“I have asked the state chief secretary to do the needful,” the chief minister told the gathering, which included state minorities commission chief Ibrahim Qureshi.

Digvijay said if the need arises, the swamp deer, or barasingha, the present state animal, could jointly share honours with the cow.

The chief minister also had a word of advice for Vajpayee. “It is for him to consider cow as a national animal,” he said, adding that he was “all for it”.

The chief minister’s declaration has left state environmentalists aghast. They wonder how the cow can replace the swamp deer whose population is declining significantly.

There are about 400 swamp deer in Kanha National Park and the numbers are slowly dwindling following loss or modification of its habitat for cultivation or tree plantation. Poaching and shooting for crop protection has also had a huge impact.

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