NDA partners raise beef issue at PM Modi’s unity dinner, call for sensitivity

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted a dinner on Monday for about 50 leaders from the BJP and its 31 allies to discuss his government’s achievements and challenges.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2017 08:13 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP Parliamentary meet,Narendra Modi,NDA
National Democratic Alliance leaders at a meeting at Pravasi Baratiya Kendra in New Delhi on Monday.(PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told NDA allies on Monday night that there were no differences between them, though some of the partners made discordant noises over issues such as the ban on beef and liquor shops.

Modi tried to reach out to the allies, delivering a simple message on Tuesday to the NDA constituents to remove anxieties they might have had about the “Big Brother” BJP.

“Aap hum hain, hum aap hain (you are us, we are you),” he said at a meeting, an outreach to the partners in the backdrop of the BJP’s big wins in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand elections.

His remarks were in response to several NDA allies expressing resentment over a lack of sensitivity in dealing with local issues and culture.

“Government should ideally avoid occasional reference to issues such as beef, and instead should strive hard to ensure progammes announced for Dalits and backward classes reach them,” suggested CK Janu, a popular Adivasi leader and head of the Kerala-based Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha.

The ban on beef and the slaughter of cows is an emotive issue for the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as well as Hindu right-wing outfits. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat demanded on Sunday a national law banning the killing of cows.

But frequent attacks on Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes on the suspicion of cattle smuggling have put the BJP in a tight spot.

Janu’s remarks at the NDA meet, also attended by BJP chief Amit Shah, reflect the unease within the allies, particularly parties from southern India and the Northeast, on issues such as beef.

The Goa Forward Party (GFP) flagged concerns over the Supreme Court’s ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of state and national highways, an order that will impact the tiny state’s economic mainstay — the tourism industry. Also, the party is unhappy with a ban on loud music at night.

“There should be sensitivity about local culture and demands,” GFP leader Vijai Sardesai said.

BJP partners from the Northeast made similar suggestions on showing sensitivity to ethnic sensibilities. The NDA rules four of the eight states in the region.

The allies, however, reposed faith in the leadership of Modi and asked people to vote his government back to power in 2019 to continue with the welfare schemes.

Also, Modi advised fellow BJP members at a separate meeting to become dedicated social workers like Hanuman, underlining the Hindu god’s legendary selfless service to the people.

“Take inspiration from Hanuman. He never took anything from anyone but he kept giving. You also need to give to people like him,” he said, after his customary Hanuman Jayanti greetings.

“When Lakshman went into coma, Hanumanji went to find a cure without any prodding. Similarly, MPs must go ahead without waiting for instructions. They need to carry forward the government’s work among the masses.”

The Prime Minister’s message to his allies struck an instant chord. The Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal — considered tough partners — responded with effusion.

The 89-year-old Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal said the BJP would rule the country for 50 years.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray pledged to stay united with the BJP. The Sena has had frequent run-ins with its coalition partner in Maharashtra and the Centre.

Modi spoke about expanding the coalition ahead of the 2019 general elections and continuing the welfare schemes that helped the BJP win a series of polls after coming to power three years ago.

“We should change ourselves according to the new India that we dream about. Our priorities should be focused,” he said during his 25-minute dinner speech.

First Published: Apr 12, 2017 00:13 IST