NEW DELHI/JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government organised a state-level convention on 'cow conservation' in Jaipur on Saturday.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Gopalan Minister Pramod Jain (a ministry specially dedicated to indigenous cows) and Agriculture Minister Lal Chand Kataria also attended the one-day convention.

Participants from nearly 2600 registered cow shelters attended the event. A leaf out of the BJP book, said local leaders.

Speaking to The Citizen, farmers' leader and MLA from Bikaner Giridharlal Mahiya said, "Government should focus on stray cattle and a livestock policy. Going ahead with the idea of creating cow shelters everywhere won't solve the problem of stray cows.”

He added, “Such conventions only think about conserving cows. It won't yield any result until the core issue of farmers having livestock and problems within the livestock economy are identified and rectified. Stray cattle eat the crops of farmers which causes huge losses to farmers. Such high-level conventions don’t even acknowledge the root cause: Why are cows being left on the street, turning them into stray cattle?"

Soon after he became chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath's government launched a statewide drive to build at least 1000 gaushalas (cow shelters). The project is estimated to cost Rs.450 crores.

The Congress government in MP is following closely on the heels of its BJP predecessor, with the National Security Act being used to arrest three persons accused of cow slaughter in the communally sensitive town of Khandwa.

Last year while campaigning for assembly elections in five states Rahul Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress, went as far as to say “the Congress is a party of Hinduism,” but was quick to add “not of Hindutva.”

Both the Congress and the BJP made cow politics central to their manifestos in last year's assembly elections.

India records the highest number of lynching incidents targeting minority sections since 2014. Most of these incidents had linkages in some form with the cow.

As per the Observer Research Foundation, “Startlingly, from a very low share of less than 5%, cow related violence (falling into either Lynching or Public Disorder) has been rising sharply as a percentage of the total, reaching over 20% by the end of June 2017.

The report continues, “At a minimum the Modi government urgently needs to revisit the opaque and draconian new cattle trade rules, which are only likely to increase the incidents of cow related violence. It is in the context of poor governance and limited state capacity that crimes such as cow related vigilantism thrive.”

The Cow Convention supposedly focused on the state economy of Rajasthan state via the cow, and on conserving biodiversity in the context of the extinction of indigenous cow breeds, improving breeding, conserving indigenous cow breeds and value addition of cow products of Rajasthan. But it was the political message sent out by the cow convention that the Congress clearly hopes will work in its favour.