When the Indira-Gandhi led Congress hailed 'Gau-mata'

Congress Poster - 1967

While addressing his audience at the launch of Livestock Vaccination Drive held in Mathura yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a remark on how the terms ‘Om’ and ‘Gaaye’, are being demonized by a chosen section of society. He added that people determined to destroy this country have left no stones unturned to see to it that their nefarious motives are actualized. But his statement has left the opposition fuming, and they launched attacks on the PM for his thoughts on ‘Gau-phobia’.

While Congress slammed him stating he is not a religious guru but a democratic leader who should desist from making such remarks, IMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, said that though the Hindus hold the cow sacred, PM Modi should bear in mind that the constitution of India guarantees right to life and equality to all citizens.

A lot of politics has been played around the cattle since 2014, and the ruling party BJP has always been at the receiving end of all accusations related to the animal. But is it really the BJP who brought the ‘holy cow’ to this arena?

Much before the BJP was even founded by Lt. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K Advani in 1980, the Congress party employed this delecate Hindu sentiment to grab the larger chunk of Hindu votes. The election poster of 1967, which read out the slogan “Vote for Calf and cow, forget all others now”, with a powerful Indira Gandhi, casting away a well-captured kind smile at a cow pampering its little calf, was brazenly wooing Hindu votes.

It may seem that ‘gomata’ has risen to prominence in Indian politic particularly after Narendra Modi assumed power in May 2014, the ‘Cow-and-calf’ symbol was demanded by and allotted to the Congress faction led by Indira Gandhi-led only months before the 1971 general elections.

Powers opposing Mrs. Gandhi brought serious objections against this allocation as "Gomaata is an object of religious worship" and shouldn’t be politicized, but the then Chief Election Commissioner S P Sen Varma overruled these fringe objections refusing to “accept the view that cow represents Hindu religion”.

Further, when approached to share his thoughts on the cow issue, renowned independence activist, and then member of Congress and Minister of Defence during the period, Jagjivan Ram, held that, “the concept signifies the progress, health of the nation and prosperity in a country where 80% population depends on the rural economy for their prosperity. The parties in reference have objected to the symbol malafide only in order to create confusion.”

Ban on cow-slaughter has been a burning debate ever since the BJP returned to power after losing it to Congress in 2004. But, it was a Congress MP of the late 50s, Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava, who had introduced Article 48 of the Indian Constitution, that reads: The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

Vinoba Bhave, who was honored with the Bharat Ratna and Padma Bhushan by the Congress Government in 1983, had gone on an indefinite fast in April 1979 demanding the government of West Bengal and Kerala act towards banning cow slaughter in their respective states. The then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai – again, a Congress leader, committed to act on the demand and a Constitution Amendment Bill concerned with prevention of cow slaughter was introduced in the Parliament floor, but it lost relevance with the dissolution of the 6th Lok Sabha.

Later, upon assuming Prime-ministership again in 1980, Indira Gandhi called for establishing committees to inspect other cattle before sending them to the slaughter-house and directed the governments of 14 states to enforce a total ban of cow-slaughter and asserted that by no means should this ban be circumvented.

The very cow, since 2014, has become the manifestation of some supposed terror running rampant in the country, popularly attributed to the Hindutva ideology by forces opposed to the BJP, marshaled by the Congress. The Congress, evidently, has come a long way since the reign of Indira Gandhi.