Madhya Pradesh’s “cow cabinet” grouping together the home, revenue, animal husbandry, agriculture, forests and panchayat ministries is a novelty in Indian politics. With the cow a revered animal for many voters, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan believes his mandate is also for cow protection. This would explain the optics of the group of ministers having their first meeting at a cow sanctuary.
Yet BJP needs to be wary of going overboard with its rhetoric. Even the Congress during its hegemony from the 1950s to the 1980s had legislated its share of cow protection laws. But the party kept losing voters through the decades by failing to meet growing aspirations or tackle price rise. Hindutva and Mandal politics merely offered the political vehicles for such disenchanted voters to rally against the Congress.
Now the BJP is also facing the same difficulties. Chouhan during his first two terms was credited with delivering phenomenal growth rates in agriculture. Despite competitive soft-Hindutva politics with Congress over the cow, Chouhan still lost power in 2017. The lesson there should not be lost on him. People are likely to see everything else as distractions if their yearning for higher incomes and better jobs aren’t met.