Time and again, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made its hard stand on cow protection known. The over-the-top public posturing of the party, working full time to extend stringent cow protection laws across all states, has been adopted by many of its leaders. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has said that cow killers should be hanged.
The Gujarat Assembly passed a bill increasing the punishment from seven years to life for those found guilty of cow slaughter, and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had tweeted that "protection of cows is the single-most important principle towards saving the whole world from both moral and spiritual degradation".
Hindus hold the cow sacred, and beef is banned in several states of India. The Uttar Pradesh government, ruled by the saffron party with Yogi Adityanath at the helm, has cracked down on illegal abattoirs, a move replicated by chief ministers of other states such as Bihar and Jharkhand.
However, when it comes to electoral politics, the party seems to understand that its hard stand on cow slaughter will probably not help it gain foothold in states where beef is the staple of millions. Which is why Nagaland's BJP chief Visasolie Lhoungu recently saidthat the ban will not be imposed in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram if the party wins the Assembly elections in these three states. These northeastern states have a Christian majority population and beef is commonly consumed.
"Ban on cow slaughter like the one in UP won't take effect in Nagaland if our party comes to power next year. The reality here is very different and our central leaders are aware of that," he said.
And now, another BJP leader seems to have echoed similar sentiments.
N Sreeprakash, BJP candidate for the Mallapuram by-poll in Kerala, another state where cow slaughter and consumption is not banned, said he will ensure "halal beef" for his constituency if elected.
"The ban in UP is against selling the meat of deceased and sick animals. Will Muslims eat meat which is non-halal? I assure you that I would ensure supply of halal meat in Malappuram if you elect me in the byelection. I will make the effort to establish good slaughterhouses, no doubt about that. You should not hesitate to vote for me on the ground that the BJP is supporting beef ban," he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
However, a leader from the BJP, a party that revers the cow as a mother and considers its killing a sin, has now argued that as long as there's no ban on killing of cows, as is the case in Kerala, people there are not breaking any law by eating beef.
"As long as Kerala does not have a beef ban and people eat what they want, the BJP state unit is not against its consumption. The issue comes into play when there is a ban. Currently, there is no ban and hence nothing against the law," the party's state General Secretary MT Ramesh told IANS.
All-India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen's Asaduddin Owaisi highlighted this dual-speak recently with a quip: "BJP's hypocrisy is that in Uttar Pradesh cow is mummy but in the Northeast it's yummy."
Malappuram district in Kerala has a large Muslim population that consumes beef.