The Congress on Friday sought to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party on the suicide by a cow protection activist seeking 'rashtra mata' (mother of nation) status to the animal, saying the party will support the government if it goes ahead with such move.
However, the BJP remained more or less elusive while refusing to give any commitment to the demand raised by the 'Gau Raksha Ekta Samiti'.
Samiti activist Hindabhai Vambadiya, 35, allegedly consumed pesticide outside Rajkot Collector office on Thursday and died later in civil hospital.
He was part of the group of eight men who attempted suicide outside the collectorate seeking 'Rashtra Mata' status to cow and beef ban across country. The issue reverberated in the Legislative Assembly on Friday.
Senior Congressman and the Leader of Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela said that his party supports the demand for declaring cow as "rashtra mata".
"The BJP should do introspection as to why someone gave his life. Cow is our mother and the BJP government must declare it as our national mother. If government agrees to do that, the Congress will support that move," Vaghela told media persons.
During the Assembly proceedings earlier in the day, Vaghela asked Speaker Ganpat Vasava to allow discussion in zero hour on the issue after question hour ended.
Vaghela told the Speaker that it was a matter of serious concern that someone has ended his life demanding the 'rashtra mata' status for cow.
Vaghela said the BJP is more touchy about the cow "as the saffron party uses cow as a mean to secure votes". However, Vasava rejected his demand, saying there is no tradition of zero-hour in Gujarat assembly, following which Vaghela and the Congress MLAs staged a symbolic walkout. After they returned, Health Minister Nitin Patel launched an attack on the Congress, saying the party has no right to speak about cow "as their leaders once supported those who eat beef".
"A Congress member of Legislative Assembly in Kerala even hosted a beef party in the past," he alleged. Senior Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil hit back at the BJP, claiming that people believed in the BJP's pre-poll claims that BJP will declare cow as national animal after coming to power at the Centre.
"BJP claims to be a party of 'gau-bhakts’ (cow worshippers). You only promised to do everything possible to protect cows ahead of polls. You only promised to declare it as Rashtra Mata. Since the BJP has not done that, a person ended his life after consuming poison in Rajkot" alleged Gohil.
Responding to Gohil, Law Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said that the BJP is a party with a strong conviction and all the party workers believe in protecting cows at any cost. The Samiti has called for Gujarat bandh on Friday on the issue.