The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cow bill heads for the slaughterhouse

New Delhi, Aug. 21: The Sangh parivar might not like it, but the proposal to ban cow slaughter is likely to go the way of women’s reservation, which is hanging fire since 1996 when a bill was first introduced.

Key allies Telugu Desam, DMK, Trinamul Congress and Janata Dal (United) today aborted the government’s attempt to introduce the cow slaughter bill in the Lok Sabha.

After the loss of face — the BJP had been crowing about the NDA’s unity during the no-confidence debate — parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj announced that an all-party meeting would consider the bill before it was introduced. Many such meetings have failed to yield a consensus on the women’s bill.

With several states — West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and the northeastern states among them — making it clear they would not enforce the law, it would be tough to get it passed.

Even if the BJP-led government manages to table the bill, sources said, it would be referred to the standing committee on agriculture for an in-depth study. The committee has 45 members — 30 from the Lok Sabha and 15 from the Rajya Sabha. Out of the 30 in the lower House, only 10 are from the BJP. The Opposition-dominated committee can delay the bill if it chooses to, writing reports after reports.

Opposition MPs belonging to the Left parties, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Muslim League protested strongly as agriculture minister Rajnath Singh stood up to table the bill.

But the allies were at the forefront, raising a banner of revolt. Desam, Trinamul, DMK, PMK and Dal(U) MPs rushed to the well of the House as Rajnath rose.

When they refused to be quietened, Speaker Manohar Joshi adjourned the House briefly. He then called the floor leaders, Swaraj and Rajnath for consultations in his chamber.

When the House reassembled, Swaraj announced that the government has decided to convene an NDA meeting followed by an all-party meeting.

Telugu Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu, who was in Delhi, met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the morning to ask him not to rush the bill.

Naidu said his party was not consulted and added that a law on the “sensitive issue” should be enacted only after a consensus.

“It is not a priority item for the country. The issue is a state subject and concerning the economy,” the Andhra Pradesh chief minister said after the meeting. The Desam would have no objection if everyone else agreed.

Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee echoed the call for all-party consensus.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee grabbed the opportunity to needle the BJP. “Sushmaji, you were talking about consensus when it came to the women’s reservation bill. Why are you not talking about it now' You have not even consulted your own allies.”

The Congress, which was quiet in the House in view of the upcoming Madhya Pradesh elections where cow slaughter is a big issue, later said it did not have any problem with the bill’s objective.

“Our only objection is about the Parliament’s competence to legislate,” the party spokesperson said, pointing out that it was a state subject.

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