The sharp denunciation of violent incidents related to gau rakshaks taking the law into their own hands in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat draws a line for BJP . The Una incident in Gujarat in particular is seen to have hurt BJP at a time when it is trying to vigorously woo Dalits ahead of next year's Uttar Pradesh polls.
The PM did not disassociate himself from the cause of protection of cows, attesting to the reverence in which the bovine animal has been held by prefacing his comments with a reference to stories of “battles between rajas and badshahs“, where 'badshahs' often placed cows before their forces. “The rajas would fear committing a sin (by killing he cows) and lose the battle,“ he said pointedly, using a metaphor of conflict between Hindu and Muslim rulers. But he said that vigilantism was not the answer.
In response to a question by Noida-based architect Chhavi Yadav on the qualities of a good volunteer, the PM elaborated his message, saying “true service of others requires a sense of compassion and sacrifice This does not mean harassing others“. BJP circles saw the forthright denunciation as the declaration of Modi's intent not to let Hindutva zealots distract attention away from his government's priorities and achievements.
He also urged the people to take time off to inquire about the well-being of ordinary folk they meet in everyday life.
Fielding a range of questions at the event organised to tions at the event organised to mark completion of two years of the citizen-connect programme 'MyGov', the PM also responded to criticism by opposition leaders that he does not comment on urgent events.“They say the PM is answerable for all this. It is good politically, I think also good for the (TV) TRPs,“ he said. The job is that of district administration and state governments rather than the PM, he said.
The PM answered recorded questions asked by citizens from cities such as Karnal, Chennai and Noida. He even got questions from abroad, including from an Indian settled in the Silicon Valley in the US and one from a woman in Switzerland.
The PM also spoke on the `MyGov' programme. “Participatory democracy is the need in a large country like In dia,“ Modi said as he stressed on the need for digital-engagement initiatives to foster greater dialogue between the people and the government. “You need a balanced relationship between development and good governance for the benefit of the common man.“
Modi said that good governance means that accountability should be fixed on those who are in-charge of the affairs in various areas and regions. He said those in power should also be open to accepting criticism. “Some people do not like criticism and cannot digest it. We need to have the capacity to take criticism.“
The PM also spoke about a sustained healthy growth rate to aid a faster all-round development of the country . “With rapid and continued economic growth of over 8 per cent over the next 30 years, we can have whatever best we see in the world,“ he said adding that tourism and `khadi' and handloom should also be encouraged.
'Gau rakshaks' have brought shame to India
The decades-old reputation of the Jana Sangh and its successor, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as a Brahmin-Bania party has been reinforced by a series of recent events.
First, its ministers - Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya - maliciously targeted supporters of the Ambedkar Students' Association in the University of Hyderabad, leading to the suicide of a bright young student, Rohith Vemula.
Now, the 'gau rakshaks' or cow protectors associated with the saffron brotherhood have run amok in Gujarat, beating up a group of Dalits for skinning a dead cow, which is their traditional profession.
Nor is this the first time that the self-appointed saffron vigilantes have attacked and even killed cowherds and suspected beef-eaters.
However, in these days of ever-present cameras and an overactive social media, the images of the Dalit boys being thrashed have fuelled Dalit fury and made the BJP run for cover.
Probably for the first time, the holy cow -- a longstanding obsession with the Hindutva brigade - has landed the BJP in deep trouble.
For a start, the party's recent strenuous efforts to shed its upper caste image and project its pro-Dalit credentials have been shredded, apparently beyond repair. Any electoral gains which the BJP may have expected in the Uttar Pradesh elections next year by securing a section of the Dalit vote have become virtually unattainable.
The Dalits have now joined the Muslims in turning against the BJP because the violent antics of the saffronites have handed the pro-Dalit Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) the entire Dalit electorate. It will be a big boost to the party since nearly 20 per cent of the state's population are members of this community.
To make matters worse for the BJP, a vice president of the party in the state described BSP leader Mayawati as a "prostitute". He has since been relieved of his position and is facing arrest, but the BJP's critics are having a field day to castigate the party's "Manuvadi" mindset reflecting the ultra-orthodox dictum of the controversial Hindu law-giver, Manu.
Before the Bihar elections, the BJP experienced considerable embarrassment when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, called for a re-look at the quota system, which suggested a dilution of affirmative action for the lower castes.
Now, the cow -- former BJP minister Arun Shourie had described the BJP's policies as those of the "Congress plus the cow" -- is proving to be an unholy obstacle to Narendra Modi's modernization plans.
While the prime minister did succeed in curbing the anti-Muslim tirades of the Yogi Adityanaths and Sakshi Maharajs on 'ghar wapsi' and love jehad -- and calling Mahatma Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, a patriot -- his party has been slow in acting against the gau-rakshaks, presumably because of the cow's special place in the saffron world.
But the party must have now realized that curbing the anti-Muslim hotheads is not enough -- for the Hindutva storm-troopers can target other communities as well.
Even as the Dalit anger singes the BJP, the party will have to make up its mind to crack down on all the saffron fundamentalists, ranging from the proponents of those who advise Hindus to have more children to counter the Muslim "threat" to the "protectors" of the cow, not out of love for the animal, but to exacerbate the Hindu-Muslim division for, as Mohammed Ali Jinnah said with the same purpose in mind, that while the Hindus worshipped the cow, the Muslims ate it.
Alienating the Dalits is the last thing which the BJP wanted at a time when its plate is full of other, seemingly intractable problems.
Among these is the continuing unrest in Kashmir, caused by the high-handedness of the security forces. The disturbances have emboldened Pakistan to hold joint patrols with the Chinese on the border of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, thereby putting another spanner in the works of Modi's friendly overtures to Islamabad.
It is a truism that none of the prime minister's various endeavours in the fields of foreign policy and industrial development can succeed in the absence of a peaceful atmosphere at home.
Arguably, the RSS and sections in the BJP, who have been "planted" in the government and various institutions by the Nagpur patriarchs, are more interested in propagating Hindu "culture" than in economic advancement.
Since the cow is a part of this worldview, it is understandable why it has taken so long for the BJP to wake up to the hooliganism of the gau rakshaks.
It can even be said that as long as these goons were hanging to death Muslim cowherds in Jharkhand and forcing alleged beef-eaters to eat a mixture of cow dung and cow urine in Faridabad, the government took no more than routine steps like arresting the culprits.
But the attack on Dalits has given a new social and electoral dimension to the violence of the vigilantes.
It has also brought shame to India, for the cow fetish does not go with Modi's Smart Cities and Digital India outlook.
It is throwback to a dark period of Indian history when widows were burnt to death and the shadow of an "untouchable" was considered polluting by the upper castes. The country can do without such regression.