The BJP is trying to establish a political base in Nandigram, the Waterloo for the CPI-M and the launch pad for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, by using the cow as a vehicle and employing a model borrowed from Gujarat.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has adopted a programme to introduce ‘goshalas’ (cow shelters) in individual households with funding from central schemes. The pitch is economic, with the party arguing that it will augment the income of villagers who can sell milk, urine and even cow dung.
BJP leaders told Hindustan Times that lessons drawn from Anand in Gujarat were incorporated in the model.
Nandigram in East Midnapore district is one of the most significant political hotspots in West Bengal.
It proved to be the Waterloo for the CPI-M regime led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee after people were killed when police opened fire on March 14, 2007 at protestors who refused to give up their land for a special economic zone aggressively pursued by the then Left Front government.
The movement of farmers was led by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who was already basking in the glory of a similar protest at Singur. The movement helped Banerjee in sweeping out the 34-year-old Left Front regime from the state.
Despite Nandigram being known as a stronghold for the ruling Trinamool Congress, BJP leaders claim farmers in the area are now making a beeline to meetings and training programmes organised by them.
On May 26, senior leaders of the BJP’s cow development cell, along with the Kishan Sangram Committee, held its first meeting in Ranichowk School. It trained 53 farmer households and registered more than 300 households that evinced interest in the project.
“We are making people understand about ‘Go Mata’ and the benefits she can give. Our meeting at Nandigram was very successful. Nearly 500 people attended the meeting. We provided training to a section of households, mainly farmers,” Subrata Gupta, convenor of the state cow development cell, told Hindustan Times.
“Through (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji’s Unnata Bharat Abhiyan, loans are being provided and goshalas are being set up in the households.”
According to BJP leaders, their push will benefit farmers economically and promote cow development and stop cow slaughter in rural areas.
The BJP will facilitate bank loans, launch awareness campaigns and train people for cow development and maintenance of cow sheds. A series of meetings are expected to be held with the people of Nandigram in the coming months.
“Last year, we visited Anand in Gujarat and saw how scientifically they maintain and feed cows. We are developing the goshalas on the Anand model,” said Motilal Khatua, head of the Kishan Sangharsh Manch and BJP state committee leader.
“The central government scheme is providing bank loans of Rs 5 lakh for cows and 33% of this amount is the subsidy component that the borrower does not need to return. We are facilitating this process.”
The grand plan is to set up goshalas, followed by milk cooperatives, urine collection centers and ‘gobar gas’ plants that will use cow dung. Once collected on a large scale, cow urine will be routed to ayurvedic and other companies.
“There are even Muslim households in Nandigram who have shown interest. Through the initiatives we are making them understand that slaughtering cows is a less viable option. Rearing cows for milk and excreta is far more profitable,” Khatua said.
The cow development cell’s programme in Nandigram is part of a statewide drive to open goshalas and connecting them with milk cooperatives.