A Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Meghalaya has resigned from the party in protest against the Centre’s new rule that bans sale of cattle at animal markets for slaughter, reported NDTV. Bernard Marak had earlier promised cheap beef in the region If his party was voted to power in the state. Assembly elections will be held in Meghalaya early next year.

“I have decided to quit the party because I am a Christian and Garo first,” Marak said. “The BJP is hurting sentiments here on the beef issue. Tribal society has its own laws. The BJP is trying to push Hindutva.”

Marak, the former West Garo Hills district president of the BJP, said the party was growing rapidly in the region, “but now many people are worried and there could be more resignations”. He plans to contest the 2018 elections as an independent candidate from Tura (South), reported Hindustan Times.

State BJP chief Shibun Lyndoh said they were not “against people having beef”. “Total beef ban is something that even people here do not support,” he said. However, he agreed that regulations and hygienic slaughter houses were required.

In March, the party had indicated that its call for a ban on beef is not applicable for states in the country’s North-East. Party leaders in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland had said that the crackdown on meat shops and slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh would not be replicated in the three north-eastern states that will go to the polls in 2018. Beef is a regular part of people’s diets in these states, where a majority of the population is Christian.