Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "unity dinner", hosted on Monday to instil a sense of solidarity among the allies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), didn't seem to have its desired effect.
In spite of the PM asking his political partners to work together and assuring them of the support of the BJP, some NDA allies expressed concern over the party's interference in people's dietary habits. According to a report in the Hindustan Times, CK Janu, who heads the Kerala-based Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha, and Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party spoke out against the beef ban favoured by the BJP.
"Government should ideally avoid occasional reference to issues such as beef, and instead should strive hard to ensure programmes announced for Dalits and backward classes reach them," Janu said. His view was echoed by Sardesai, who urged "sensitivity regarding local cultures and demands".
Even as reports of cow vigilantism surface, with a dairy farmer being recently lynched by a mob in Alwar for the 'crime' of transporting cows, the BJP and its affiliated wings seem to be speaking with a forked tongue on the issue. Only days ago, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat called for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, while another BJP MP has introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha demanding the death penalty for the same.
In the Northeast and Kerala, where the party is seeking to make inroads, it has no qualms about making an exception for beef-eaters. Beef is consumed traditionally by Christians in the Northeast, while in the South it is eaten across castes. In both regions, BJP leaders have bent over backwards assuaging the fear of the electorate, never explaining why eating beef in these parts are fine, whereas people could get killed for doing so in certain other parts of the country.
If cultural sensitivity is an arbiter of such exceptionalism, whose culture is the BJP upholding in a state like Uttar Pradesh, for instance, which has a substantial Muslim population? If consumption of beef by Christian communities is in accordance with their tradition, why isn't the same principle followed in the case of the Muslims, who have also eaten beef for centuries?
But, then again, such hypocrisy is hardly new for a party that has played its Hindu vote-bank and practised a politics of appeasement like any other party in this country.
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