“It is fine to protect animals that are sacred and I believe in that too, but I think we could have done a better job by prioritising those issues first and then taken on the cow issue. I think that for Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Kamal Nath is the best person to decide on the issue, but for Rajasthan, this is what I feel,” he said.
Pilot’s comments, made at The Hindu Huddle Conclave, came after the Congress government in MP last week charged five men in two cases under the National Security Act for alleged cow slaughter and illegal transportation of cattle.
Many states in India, especially in the Hindi heartland, are grappling with an overrun of stray cows that destroy crops after the BJP government’s ill-thought-out decision to ban cow slaughter without providing other resources for farmers to care for their ageing livestock.
The Congress had faced criticism for following the BJP’s script on cow protection after including a promise to construct gaushalas in its Madhya Pradesh manifesto.
But even here, as with other issues, the Congress seems to be confused about which constituency of voters it is appealing to. While Pilot’s comments echo the sentiments expressed by other senior Congress leaders such as P Chidambaram, Digvijaya Singh and Salman Khurshid, who had also criticised the move, spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party would not interfere in the matter, leaving it to CM Kamal Nath.
The divided views emerging from the party are similar to its position on the Sabarimala row. While the party’s Kerala unit vehemently opposed the state Left government’s efforts to implement the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the temple, party president Rahul Gandhi backed women’s entry, while Sonia Gandhi intervened to prevent senior MPs from holding a “black band” protest. Later, Rahul drew criticism for tweaking his position and saying he sees the merit of the protesters’ argument as well.
The Congress in Kerala found itself on the backfoot on the issue, often echoing the BJP’s arguments while trying to explain its stand.
While placing itself diametrically opposite to the BJP at the centre, Congress has found itself aligning more and more with the saffron party’s ideological positions at the state level.
The party’s lack of a comprehensive ‘line’ on these issues betrays an uncertainty in comprehending who its voters actually are and what they want.