The previous Basavaraj Bommai government’s anti-cow slaughter bill in Karnataka is an impediment to the state’s progress and entails massive financial burdens, Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge told NDTV today. This conclusion, he added, was not drawn by the Congress but by the BJP government’s finance department.
Mr Kharge also made it clear that not just cow slaughter or hijab, any rule by the BJP government can go if found to be regressive and against the state’s economic and social growth. Asked about a possible political backlash, he said the focus of the Congress government is “not politics, just economics”.
The anti-cow slaughter bill, he said, was drawn up only to please the BJP’s “bosses in Nagpur”. It has made neither farmers, nor the industry happy.
“This bill may be reconsidered in view of huge financial implications. We cannot agree to this kind of expenditure when we are struggling to make ends meet. The next two years, we expect a contraction in budget size and the cabinet’s decision can be put on hold,” he said, reading from a note of the finance department written during the BJP rule.
The BJP’s other plans regarding cow protection were also economic liabilities, said Mr Kharge, who handles the rural development and panchayati raj portfolios in the new Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah.
As an example, he cited the plan to provide fodder to livestock.
According to the BJP’s calculations, he said, it involves Rs 70 each animal each day — “I do not know how they came up with this figure,” he said. But their calculations mean an expenditure of a whopping Rs 5,240 crore to feed the state’s 1.7 lakh livestock.
Asked about the political repercussions of these measures, Mr Kharge – who is the son of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge – pointed to the huge mandate received by the party last month in the state’s assembly election.
“We are looking at the economic growth of Karnataka… farmers, traders, MSMEs… we have got a huge mandate against this ideology. We have got a huge mandate to keep Karnataka on the path of progress… as a government is it not my priority to keep every child in school? If a certain policy is regressive and is keeping my children out of school, will I keep it or repeal it?” he said.
The Congress, which won 135 of Karnataka’s 244 seats, had promised in its manifesto that it would “take strong action against organisations like Bajrang Dal that promote enmity and hatred among different communities”.
Mr Kharge said, “Any regressive policy that impedes the growth of Karnataka economically and is going to take the state backwards will be reviewed and repealed if necessary”.