NEW DELHI: The beef ban controversy has not worked. At least has not worked in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party that has failed singularly to polarise opinion behind the issue that led to the lynching of a poor villager Mohammad Ashfaq in Dadri.

Instead the national outrage after the lynching has placed the government and the party on the backfoot with Prime Minister Narendra Modi having to make two statements on the issue during his campaign in Bihar. One where he did not mention the Dadri incident at all though spoke of communal tensions, and the second time where he was compelled to make the specific mention although he went on to state that the central government was not responsible.

In Bihar, despite the Bharatiya Janata Party election campaign raising the beef issue, the voters response was dismissive and the issue did not take off in polarising opinion, or influencing the vote for or against the BJP. Instead, the Akali Dal---an ally of the BJP led NDA government at the centre---has now protested strongly against what its spokesperson described as the ruling party’s “rotor mouths” stating that these should be curbed. Punjab is going to the polls next, and given the Aam Aadmi’s aggressive campaign the Akali Dal is clearly facing the heat.

Akali leader Naresh Gujral has said that the Dadri lynching was a “shame for the nation.” He said that it should be condemned in strong words and that the BJP should take action against its ‘rotor mouths’. He said that the lynching had damaged the government’s reputation.

Bihar and Punjab thus, appear to have promoted BJP President Amit Shah to make at least the token gesture of summoning party leaders and admonish them for speaking out of turn. In reports given to the media by ‘sources” Shah is said to have warned these leaders not to make such comments maintaining that PM Modi was “angry” about these remarks.

The leaders summoned y Shah included Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who was in the news for stating that Muslims in the country must give up beef. Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma was also brought in for a series of hate remarks, including the description of the lynching as an ‘accident” and comments again whom he termed as “cow killers.” Sakshi Maharaj, another prominent BJP leader advocating death penalty for cow slaughter was also reportedly admonished.

The Dadi lynching has received worldwide media attention with the government of India received adverse and critical publicity. The calculation that the beef row would impact in favour of the BJP in Patna proved to be erroneous, with even those voting for the BJP chastened by news of the lynching. The Akali Dal’s open warning to the BJP has also struck a sombre note for the ruling dispensation, with the party becoming isolated within the NDA as well on this issue.

In Jammu and Kashmir the efforts by the BJP to impose a beef ban have been stalled by the apex court that has given a two month stay on a High Court order. The issue will be raised after two months, and the BJP might find itself again on the wrong end of the stick on this issue at the time. The uncertainty now has ensured that the aggressive campaign launched by the party in the sensitive border state is withdrawn, for the moment at least. The issue peaked against the BJP with the thrashing of lawmaker Engineer Rashid inside the Assembly by BJP MLAs, uniting the opposition in the state and worrying coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party.