Mumbai: While delivering the Savarkar Memorial Lecture on 26 February, the 49th death anniversary of Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat praised him for his contribution to India’s struggle for independence, Hindutva and various other qualities. However, Bhagwat steered clear of any references to Savarkar’s thoughts on propagating a scientific temper among Hindus and his pleas to the Hindu society on giving up old customs which had done more harm than good.

One such custom, Savarkar felt, was cow worship. He asked the Hindu society to stop believing in the mumbo-jumbo of the cow as holy mother. While expressing his thoughts on cow, he famously said, “Cow is just a useful animal."

However, after assuming office in October, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra—which swears by Savarkar’s name—proceeded to ban the slaugher of cows, bulls and bullocks, acting on a legislation that has been in limbo for the last 20 years.

The first BJP-Sena government which ruled the state during 1995-99 had passed the law in 1996, but the president sent back the bill with some queries. However, by the time government was ready with its queries, there was a change of government with the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government coming to power and remaining in office till October 2014.

The Congress-NCP government never replied to the president’s query and the bill remained in suspended animation for close to two decades. After receiving satisfactory replies from state government, President Pranab Mukherjee gave his ascent to the bill on 2 March.

It is true that some Hindu communities, especially from scheduled castes and tribals, and Christians eat beef and scheduled caste communities are involved in leather business do benefit from the beef trade, but it is also a fact that the trade in India is controlled by Muslims. This definitely helps BJP-Sena to act tough with beef-eating Muslims, project themselves as guardians of the so-called Hindu culture, and please their core constituencies.

The BJP never really cared about Muslim votes as they know they are hardly going to get them, but it was a legislative gaffe by the Congress-NCP government that made the job easy for the saffron grouping.

Had the Congress-BJP government that ruled the state between 1999 and 2014 taken a firm stand and asked the president’s office to return the bill, the current Maharashtra government would have been forced to reintroduce the amendment bill once again in the state legislature.

We know from experience at the centre how difficult it becomes for governments to push their legislative agenda, especially if they don’t have a majority in the upper house. In Maharashtra too, the situation is no different. Though the BJP and Sena have absolute majority in the assembly, they don’t have a majority in the upper house or legislative council.

But the Congress, as usual, tried to put one foot each in two boats and attempted to please Muslims and Hindus at the same time. The NCP has not been mentioned separately, because the NCP in reality is nothing but the Sharad Pawar faction of the Congress.

Perhaps these delusions of Muslims with Congress and so-called other secular parties are driving them to radical outfits such as All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM). In October 2014 assembly elections, for the first time, MIM made an entry into a legislative assembly of any other state than Telangana or erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh. It won two assembly seats in Maharashtra and stood second on three seats.

Same old thing

The Congress never learns, it seems. This yet again became evident when it appointed former chief minister Ashok Chavan as the president of Maharashtra State Congress, notwithstanding massive defeats in the last Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

The perception that Congress is a corrupt and dynastic organization had made it unpopular with voters. Chavan, who had to step down in the wake of the Adarsh housing scam in October 2010, is also the son of former chief minister and Union minister Shankarrao Chavan.

It is true that Chavan was the only one who withstood the so-called Narendra Modi wave and not only managed to win the Lok Sabha seat of Nanded in Marathwada but also helped party to win the only other seat in the state of Hingoli and is most popular leader among workers. The question is how the party is going to change the perception around it with people like Chavan at the helm.

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