Opposition banks on non-issues
Unable to come to terms with the expanding support base of BJP and the ever-rising popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the opposition parties, particularly the Congress and the Left parties, see an RSS hand in every decision that is made by the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government at the Centre. What these parties don't realise is that their negative approach further alienates them from the masses, thereby, bolstering the image of BJP.
In a democracy, political parties in opposition have a vital role to play. They are well within their rights when they constructively oppose and criticise a decision of the government that is not in the interest of the people. The role of the opposition, in other words, is to ensure that the party in power does not deviate from the path laid down by the Constitution. The problem arises when the opposition takes up trivial matters to target the government for the sake of opposing the party in power. Such attacks on the government stem from ideological differences that exist among political parties.
Ideally, in a democratic setup, the ideology of any political party, whether in power or the opposition, should not reflect upon the functioning of the government. Unfortunately, that is not the case in India today. Several political parties in opposition, shaken by Prime Minister Modi's agenda of 'sabka saath, sabka vikas', which means collective efforts for inclusive growth, are attempting to create roadblocks on the path of smooth governance.
With no real issue in hand to corner the government at the Centre, the Congress and the Left parties seem to have adopted the strategy of wrongfully blaming RSS of influencing government decisions. The government has clarified several times that RSS does not meddle in its affairs. Also, there is no proof of any such interference. The opposition parties, however, are not willing to pay heed. They remain determined to drag the name of RSS into every issue taken up by them against the government. Obviously, the aim is to generate political noise so as to stay relevant at the national level and at the same time keep together the fast diminishing flock of supporters.
The manner in which the Congress and the Left parties reacted after the notification of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, on May 23, once again showed that these parties were not willing to either give up their old strategy of blaming RSS or their penchant for theatrics.
The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on May 30 granted a four-week stay on the notification in response to a PIL and directed both the state government and the Centre to respond within that time. It is most likely that the Centre will now have to face a protracted legal battle over the notification. However, a closer look at the rules, primarily aimed at regulating the livestock markets, will reveal that they are necessary for the interest of animal welfare, and also benefit the farmer community in the long run.
Besides ensuring that animals in livestock markets are adequately cared for, the rules will require that livestock markets are equipped with adequate facilities like housing, feeding areas, feed storage, water supply, water troughs, ramps, drainage, enclosures for sick animals and veterinary care. Only healthy animals will be allowed for trading in livestock markets. Also, the rules restrict the sale of cattle in such markets. The word 'cattle' in the notification refers to bovine animals and includes bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves, and camels.
These animals will be allowed for sale only for agriculture purposes and not for slaughter or religious sacrifices. The animals for slaughter will have to be sourced directly from farms. The restriction placed on the sale of cattle for slaughter or religious sacrifices at livestock markets can go a long way in preventing illegal trade of animals and cattle smuggling. The livestock markets will eventually become hubs for sale and purchase of animals meant solely for agriculture purposes.
The Congress and the Left parties, owing to their inherent bias against BJP, refuse to accept that the measures listed in the notification by the Environment Ministry for regulating the livestock markets have more advantages than disadvantages. Instead, they are vehemently opposing the Centre's move and absurdly terming it as an attempt by the government to impose the RSS agenda on the country, a conspiracy of the government to change the food habits of people, a violation of human rights and an attack on the poor and downtrodden. In Kerala, members of the Congress and the Left parties recently organised beef-eating festivals in protest. The aim is to link the notified rules with the controversial and sensitive issue of beef consumption.
The Environment Ministry has stated that it is looking into the matter raised concerning some of the provisions of the regulation. It has received representations both in favour and against. Among those that are opposing the rules are the states of Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka, some Northeast states and the Union Territory of Puducherry. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK, which is in the opposition in the state, is leading the protest against the Centre's decision.
Congress and the Left parties have till now failed to highlight any important issue before the country which could dent the image of NDA at the Centre. It is expected that in the absence of any real issue both these parties are likely to continue playing disruptive politics for the remaining term of the present government.
India is currently faced with challenges on multiple fronts – fear of rising unemployment, poverty, poor infrastructure, inadequate health care facilities, cross-border terrorism, to mention but a few. For most Indians, availability of beef is not a burning issue. Beef and buffalo meat eaters constitute just 7.5 per cent of the total population of India. Hence, taking up such matters will not help the opposition parties reclaim their lost ground.(Views are strictly personal.)