The NDA government has issued a notification to permit Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu's traditional bull-taming sport which has been making the headlines for controversial reasons, ahead of the Pongal festival.
The latest notification, which overturns the one of 2011 that had prohibited the exhibition or training of bulls and other animals as performing ones. The Supreme Court had in 2014 upheld the order of 2011.
The Centre's move came after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa made a request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lift the ban on the sport and celebrations were seen across the southern state once the Centre responded. A grateful Jayalalithaa thanked the PM after the Centre's notification came.
Will BJP gain anything in TN by sacrificing the bull?
For the AIADMK leadership, the reason for backing Jallikattu so urgently is still understandable but how much the BJP will gain in the poll-bound state by making this move?
At a time when the right-wing brigade in the country is displaying its desperate concern for the well-being of the cow, the BJP showed little care for the bull's lot just because it wants to align itself with the popular opinion in favour of the age-old game which the animal rights groups have denounced.
Jayalalithaa's fast course to regain popularity after floods
Political observers felt the Tamil Nadu CM's demand for an ordinance (!) to allow Jallikattu was aimed at bagging the votes of the Thevar community, a sizeable backward class group which is involved in the sport in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. This could also be a ploy to divert attention from the slow recovery that the state has been found to be making from the devastating floods in some of its northern parts, including capital Chennai.
The BJP is perhaps also seeing an opportunity in this. Just like fight for development or against pollution, the bull-taming sport is also a safe election issue for supporting it would not meet much resistance, except from the animal groups. Hence, the BJP leadership promptly responded to Jayalalithaa's request to keep the unpredictable leader content, something that could help the saffron party after the Tamil Nadu polls get over.
For a party which has received back-to-back election setbacks in 2015 and also not in a position to deliver in the next set of Assembly polls, some opportunity somewhere is always welcome. Jayalalithaa, too, would look to regain her popularity in the wake of the floods before the state goes to the polls and hence took up the Jallikattu on an urgent basis. The stakes are similar for the AIADMK and BJP as far as Jallikattu's resumption is concerned.
If an ordinance is promulgated before January 14, the animal rights groups are likely to move the court and seek a stay on Jallikattu. But yet that wouldn't hurt the AIADMK and BJP for they would claim before the electorate that they had at least tried.
The Congress would be left exasperated as Jayalalithaa also blamed the former UPA government for its 2011 notification whereby bulls couldn't be exhibited or treated as a performing animal. The DMK also criticised the AIADMK government over its handling of the matter but all that is least likely to give the Opposition any opportunity to meet the stiff challenge that the populist CM of Tamil Nadu has already thrown at it.
National parties now running after local issues to become relevant?
It is seen as a pattern now that the national parties try to emulate the regional parties to focus on local issues to gain a foothold in those states where they are weak. The BJP, for example, changed its focus more on issues like development in West Bengal from directly attacking Mamata Banerjee in issues like Saradha chit fund scam.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, which has quite a lead over the saffron party, is also talking about development and it would be futile for the BJP to attack its top leadership if it wants to increase its vote share there. Now, the same is happening in Tamil Nadu where the BJP has shown an inclination to align itself with the powerful Jayalalithaa in a local issue to keep the electorate happy.
Sorry Mr Bull, you are not quite a cow
But does scoring a political brownie point the most important objective for the BJP, which is leading the national government now, than take due care of an important issue like animals' rights? If a cow commands so much respect in this country today, why doesn't a bull?