Bhopal, Aug. 23: A temple-hopping Digvijay Singh today sought to underplay his love for cows, saying he had never advocated a nation-wide ban on slaughtering the bovines.
“There is no need for a nation-wide ban. It is a state subject and each state should be free to legislate in accordance with the prevailing situation in the state,” the strongest protagonist of cow protection outside the Sangh parivar said, toeing the official Congress line.
A few weeks ago, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister had recommended a representation to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that sought a nation-wide ban. Today, however, the chief minister said he had merely forwarded the petition for Vajpayee to “consider as he deems fit”.
Informed sources said Digvijay’s turnaround came in the wake of the Vajpayee regime’s failure to introduce a cow slaughter bill in the Lok Sabha and the disquiet in the Congress.
Digvijay, sources said, was positioning himself to counter the BJP’s cow-slaughter plank in the coming Assembly polls but once the Vajpayee regime failed to introduce the bill, the chief minister diluted his stand to mollify the central Congress leadership.
In recent days, the party leadership had repeatedly asked Digvijay to tone down his emphasis on issues like cow slaughter.
But the chief minister continued to present an image of a deeply religious man. After a dip at the Nashik Kumbh, Digvijay, in a wet dhoti, went about bowing before numerous akhara heads, saints and priests and inviting them to the 2004 Ujjain Singhast — the once-in-12-years religious congregation that kicks off next April. Barefoot and a picture of devotion, he offered dakshina, fruits and sweets to every priest he came across.
In one day, Digvijay visited four shrines. Accompanied by wife Asha, he first landed at Mahakal temple in Ujjain and offered puja at Ramghat on the bank of the Kshipra. He then flew to Nashik. The next destination was Shirdi before he completed the circuit, visiting the Shanidev temple in Shingnapur.
After visiting these temples, Digvijay sat down to rubbish the BJP’s “chargesheet” against his government. He said among the 100 allegations, the BJP had already raised 60 of them in the Assembly and another 30 related to his 1993-98 term. The BJP’s charges, he added, lacked punch and had factual errors.
The state Congress is meeting in the hill resort of Panchmarhi tomorrow to finalise the party’s election manifesto for the November polls.