Shillong, June 1: The divide within the Bharatiya Janata Party over the issue of beef ban is growing every day in the Northeast India, especially in Meghalaya. Several leaders of the saffron party in Meghalaya have openly expressed their reservations over the Centre's latest restrictions on sale of cattle for slaughter that is likely to bring a blanket ban on beef across the country.
The anger is so much palpable within the BJP in Meghalaya that a leader of the saffron party is planning to host a beef party to mark three years of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. On May 26, the BJP-led NDA government completed three years of rule at the Centre.
"Garo Hills BJP to organise bitchi-beef party to celebrate three years of Modi Government," Bachu Chambugong Marak, president of the BJP's North Garo Hills district, posted on his Facebook page. Bitchi is the Garo term for rice beer.
Because of his comments, Marak is likely to be sacked from the BJP as indicated by party in-charge of Meghalaya, Nalin S Kohli.
Marak told The Telegraph, "We will organise the beef party because beef is our traditional food. We, the Garo people, cannot live without eating beef." "We will automatically quit the party if the leadership cannot solve the issue. But if the party can solve the problem, we will remain in the party. There will be no support for the party in the Garo hills if it bans beef," Marak added.
As protest over beef is brewing within the saffron party, the BJP is now thinking to make a U-turn on its latest ruling to avoid electoral disaster in states like Meghalaya which is slated for assembly elections in 2018.
"The question of having a law on cow slaughter is to be decided by the state and not the Centre. Every state government that decides to have a law or not have a law has to keep in mind the local habits. In the Northeast, people eat beef, so the governments will have to bear that in mind," Kohli said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Asked about the Mark's Facebook post, Kohli said, "The district president... is going to be sacked. If he wants to leave the party, we will welcome it."
In fact, a leader of the BJP in Meghalaya on Tuesday threatened to quit the party if the Modi government refused to repeal the new cattle trade rules. "Most party leaders in Meghalaya are not happy with the new rules which are directly affecting the socio-economic status of the people," BJP vice president John Antonius Lyngdoh told IANS.
Lyngdoh said the party members went into a huddle on Monday and discussed the issue in depth. "We cannot accept the new rules on cattle trade and slaughter. We cannot go against our food behaviour besides putting the economic interest of those people dealing in cattle trade and slaughter in jeopardy," the former food and civil supplies minister said.
He added, "It will be difficult for the candidates to campaign as the electorate won't back a party which goes against the interests of the people."
While states like Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal--where opposition parties are at the helm of affairs--opposed the latest cattle sale and slaughter rules, in Meghalaya the dissent is mostly expressed by the BJP members.
Morever, beef festivals in several parts of Kerala, Chennai and Bengaluru have caused irritation to the ring wing groups, it would be interesting to see how the BJP is going to stop a beef festival by one of its own in Meghalaya.