What could not be done by democratic means is being attempted via cooked up and ultimately illegal protest.
Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord
There is a red alert, panic stations, a little hysteria, and frantic political mobilization afoot. Tellingly, it leans on concentrations of Muslims and Communists. Political parties that rely on their votes are exhorting them to oppose the government with incendiary slogans.
The people behind it hope that this will grow and sustain and become the mass movement against the government they are paying for.
Can it destabilise Modi 2.0 well before 2024? This has been suggested by the former Congress Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, under criminal investigation for corruption and money-laundering himself. What could not be done by democratic means through two general elections via the ballot box, is being attempted via a cooked up and ultimately illegal protest. It has seditious overtones, uses expert arson, destroys public and private property, blocks roads. It is deliberately provoking the police and other authorities in the name of “peaceful” protest.
Overthrowing the Narendra Modi government is the abiding desire and fantasy, though it is couched in much unctuous verbiage. But whether it is in the hands of a politician or a rabble rouser, it has little of substance to use. So it uses innuendo, rumour, slander, fake news, wishful-thinking and frustration.
The endeavour is to provoke a massive a bloody government crackdown that can be milked politically. However, the government’s responses have been canny, measured, cautious. This even as it asserts that there will be no rollback of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It is only the first of three laws, the latter two were introduced by the former UPA government, which probably had no desire to implement them any more than the Assam Accord.
The protest for the TV cameras, web portals, the social media, the broadsheets, is ostensibly against what a section of the depleted Opposition, supported by a propagandising, dwindling, Lutyens Delhi media, calls “polarisation”.
This polarisation is meant to be diabolical because it allegedly favours Hindus. This is a frequent charge during the Modi administered years, grown out of the earlier sneer that labelled the BJP communal. That tag no longer works like it did over 10 years ago. Because now the BJP gets on and works with a number of regional political parties, who accept its desire to engender progress for all, and do what is best for the nation. These parties vote with the NDA to pass crucial legislation in the teeth of virulent opposition from those who are in, or with, the much weakened Congress Party.
It is they, who find it difficult to accept the ascendancy of the BJP, particularly since they have either been driven from power altogether, or into a humiliating subsidiary role by the very voter who was with them six years ago.
But when it comes to polarisation, are these parties being bested at their own long-standing game? Shrill as their outrage is, it may be no more than the sooty kettle calling the cooking pot black.
A recent India Today-Karvy Mood of the Nation opinion poll, released just a day after the Supreme Court refused to stay the implementation of the CAA, suggests a dip in the Modi government’s popularity. It suggests unhappiness with both the abrogation of Article 370/35A in Jammu and Kashmir and the expected implementation of the CAA, already begun in some states. But even this poll, which may be far from objective, given its slanted questions, says if there was an election right now, the NDA would win 303 seats. That means a comfortable majority, even if it is much less that the over 350 seats the NDA had in 2019.
It is clear there is an existential threat to the Congress, CPM, TMC, SP, BSP, RJD and others who encourage Muslim infiltrators. They then proceed to furnish them with Indian identities, inclusive of addresses and voter/Aadhar cards, in order to add to their own vote banks. The numbers are estimated to be over 2 crore of such immigrants.
It is this subversion of the electorate and national security that has necessitated the implementation of the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) now. The latter has even been mandated by the Supreme Court for Assam. It is now likely to be implemented nation-wide, even as an earlier failed exercise in Assam will be redone. While NPR is also beginning to be implemented in some states, no final norms or rollout dates have been worked out for the nation-wide NCR.
But the current protest is not really about the CAA at all, though liberal and Left-leaning intellectuals have been trying to give it a high-minded tone of being violative of the Indian Constitution. That it is a democratically passed law by Parliament after due deliberation in its formulation, debate in both Houses, and voting, does not seem to impress these thinkers. They don’t like its selective nature towards a fast track to citizenship.
The Supreme Court seems to think that the CAA is not ultra vires. However, a five-judge Constitution bench is slated to hear some 140 petitions in about four weeks’ time.
Looking beyond the CAA, which is likely to stay, the government may find ways and means via NPR and NRC in particular, to disenfranchise, if not detain and deport, an estimated 2 crore illegal Muslim immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh. It is this possibility that is frightening Congress and its like-minded friends.
The government, having got away with three revolutionary successes in a row in the first flush of Modi 2.0, is also said to be preparing a population control bill, as well as the long awaited Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that would put an end to Muslim Personal Law and other minority codes as they currently obtain.
The three successes that caught the Opposition unawares because Modi 1.0 proceeded with much less speed, despite demonetisation and GST, were first the parliamentary nullification of Articles 370/35A and J&K’s overnight transformation into two union territories. Second came the passage of the contentious Triple Talaq Bill into law. And third was the momentous verdict handing the long sought-after land at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya to build a grand new temple upon.
The Congress Party and those in its train do not want to be caught napping again. However, this government seems determined to press on with its legislative agenda, as well as its implementation, and feels confident it can withstand the protests. Perhaps it thinks that they are inevitable given the circumstances.
The economy is showing signs of a cyclic revival, and may take away another plank of the Opposition ire. Once this revival gains momentum, and the upcoming Union Budget on 1 February may give it a fillip, it will be difficult to say these laws were brought in and forward to distract the public from their economic and financial woes.
The Modi government and particularly Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and now J.P. Nadda, always seems to thrive in the face of opposition, but the nation too may have come to a watershed.
Even as the largest minority, nearly 200 million strong and 17% of the population today, along with its rabble rousers, sharpens its attack, the Hindu majority is in no mood to relent. Under no circumstances is the majority willing to let this country slide into becoming an Islamic Republic with all its attendant horrors.
This confrontation should have been avoided by the Muslim community and those who are agitating them with false propaganda. Yes, this government seems determined to make changes to their privileged status. But these changes will have to be accepted. All our citizens can live and thrive in this country, but only as equals. The writing is also on the wall for the tiny Christian community that has seen fit via its Church administration over the last six years, to work against this government and the Hindu majority.
It is true that all these attitudes stem from legacy issues. However, that particular construct and its benefits have already been redeemed in full. Now we all live in a “New India” that has replaced the “Nehruvian idea of India”.
Sidelined historical stalwarts such as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda, Sardar Patel, Veer Savarkar, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, and yes, even the recently departed Balasaheb Thackeray and A.P.J. Abdul Kalaam, are now getting their due and turn in the sun.