Educating people on new law essential to prevent Congress-Maulvi mischief.


The loss of Jharkhand might have been overshadowed by the Muslim stir over the Citizenship Amendment Act, but the two are connected. Both reflect the arrogance and complacency of the top leadership of the ruling party. These and a number of other self-goals could well have been avoided had the decision-making in the government and the party not become a two-man affair. For a party which took great pride in wider consensus, refusing to vest all power even in its biggest vote-getters, giving the carte-blanche to the Modi-Shah duo is beginning to prove costly.

Take the new citizenship law first. Having dispensed with the need to consult its NDA allies, causing much resentment among their leaders, the Home Minister clearly felt himself to be under no obligation to sound the Opposition leaders before springing a surprise in Parliament. An otherwise well-meaning move, which Congress and Communist leaders had repeatedly pressed for, was allowed to fall victim to the ingrained hostility of the Opposition leaders desperate to mount a street challenge to the Modi sarkar.

Aside from the handful of secularist-liberal elements who will have the government to open the borders to all comers, including those persecuted due to their religion, as also to economic refugees, the Constitution does not oblige the rulers, whoever they may be, to bestow the benefit of founding tenets to those outside the territorial boundaries of the country. No one was to be thrown out of India under the new law, only the persecuted groups from three countries were to be given fast track citizenship. That is all. Why burn the country over a humanitarian measure whose ambit could well be extended later to include other groups?

The truth is that having tasted blood, after regaining power in a number of states thanks only to the BJP arrogance and complacency and the generosity of allies, the Congress leadership instigated the already sullen Muslims to cause mayhem. The tell-tale video of a senior party leader directing the party cadres to come armed with diesel to burn down public property is not the only evidence implicating the Congress. There is far more. Of course, the centre of first violent protests, unsurprisingly, was the twin Muslim seats of education in the North.

In the fierce competition for the Muslim vote, other Opposition groups soon jumped into the fray, pouring oil on the smouldering ambers of violent protests. Only a purblind will deny that the Opposition was guilty of feeding the sense of alienation of the Muslims by spreading the canard that CAA was aimed against them. If only Amit Shah had challenged the critics before, and not after, the public eruption, maybe the Mullah-Maulvi-Congress axis would have been denied the opportunity they were eagerly waiting for to burn down the country.

Fortunately, peace seems to be returning fast to the Muslim ghettos, with the authorities maintaining strict watch on the nefarious activities of the Imams and Maulvis, and slapping fines on miscreants for arson and rioting. Now the onus is on the government to educate the misguided and the mischievous about the real objectives of CAA. Of course, TV channels dedicated to the service of the Family will try to aggravate the situation, now shouting about excesses by the UP police. But the truth is, trouble-makers cannot be made to appreciate the obligation of good citizenship any other way. As for the TV channels, when UPA embraces nationwide NPR for 120 crore Indians it goes ga-ga in praise, and if the same NPR is continued by Modi it spews venom and spitfire. But then less said about the television group mortgaged to a big corporate, the better.

As for the loss in Jharkhand, it is a public secret the BJP worked hard for it. Persisting with a Chief Minister who had gained notoriety for being arrogant and corrupt, allowing him to humiliate and throw out senior party colleagues, forcing a valuable ally to part company in bitterness were a few of the gentleman’s excesses. Having got the senior RSS apparatchiks in the state on his side, Raghbur Das did as he liked, and virtually handed over the state to the JMM with the Congress in its train as an opportunistic partner on a platter.

Meanwhile, it will be wrong to extrapolate some of the negative developments to pronounce a premature end to the sway of Modi over the country. The setbacks in fact might persuade him not to lower his guard, to pay attention to the party, and not allow an aggressive Shah to ramrod his will on the party and the nation. Consensus-building is a compulsory 24×7 task for running a diverse and divisive country regardless of the brute majority the government enjoys in Parliament. Modi and Shah need to take a leaf out of the A.B. Vajpayee playbook and try and keep all sections in the polity in good humour. Those unwilling for civil cooperation, like the Gandhis, can be left to their own devious devices.

Postscript: Media pundits tend to invest in some developments more than is warranted. For instance, seeing a parallel in the recent anti-CAA protests is plain, simple day-dreaming of those craving for attention by the present regime. The Navanirman agitation in 1974 was fuelled by the twin incendiaries of uncontrollable price-rise and corruption, both headaches absent in the current situation. Besides, in the 1970s the Opposition was fortunate to have stalwarts like Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Avani, Charan Singh, and a host of others whose struggle and public standing in the country cannot be matched by anyone in the Opposition, certainly not by any in the Gandhi trio desperate to become leaders only by dint of their birth.