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MOMENT OF TRUTH

MOMENT OF TRUTH
31 Dec 2019

MOMENT OF TRUTH

‘The CAA stir is further uniting political opposition forces across the country against the BJP’

By SUNJOY HANS

Editor-in-Chief

 These are rather testing times for the Narendra Modi government. There is no two ways about it. Getting the Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in both houses of the Parliament was a piece of cake vis-à-vis getting the Citizenship Amendment Act peacefully accepted by the people of the multireligious, multicultural, multilingual, multi-ethnic and multi-everything land that is India.

Ever since the CAA came into being last month, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been busy doing precious little apart from firefighting fervent protests across the country that have destroyed much property, injured hundreds, and even claimed lives.

The BJP leadership recently commenced a nationwide drive to clarify its stand on the CAA to the people and check a much-feared crash in its popularity. However, many political analysts reckon that the party’s Hindutva identity will come in the way of convincing critics that the Act is neither being discriminatory on the basis of religion nor is it the beginning of more anti-minority moves as it is widely purported to be.

All this, while the economy is on the slide and unemployment is on the rise.

What is worse, the CAA stir is further uniting political opposition forces across the country against the BJP.

The phenomenon most recently manifested in Jharkhand when a grand alliance of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) threw the BJP out of power after the assembly elections last month. This happened barely two months after the surprise post-poll alliance of Shiv Sena, Congress and National Congress Party (NCP) pipped the BJP to the post despite the saffron party having won by far the maximum number of seats in Maharashtra assembly elections. Not to mention, a little over a year earlier, the party lost three states – Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – at one go, and all to Congress.

With this trend continuing, many political analysts say, the BJP’s stated mission of a Congress-free India will remain a pipe dream. It is another matter that this must be far from the party’s mind at present.

As for the Congress, the current national crisis over CAA and National Registry of Citizens (NRC) might just be its biggest opportunity yet to turn around its flagging fortunes. The way the Gandhi siblings and other senior Congress leaders have been reacting amid the prevailing circumstances shows that the party recognises that prospect all too well. But whether it can sustainably leverage these issues to get an edge over the BJP will depend much on the competence and consistency of its still-indeterminate leadership.

Having said that, there is still much in the hands of the Modi government. The BJP will remain the ruling regime at the Centre for at least another four-plus years. Through actions, rather than mere words, the saffron party can undertake many confidence-building measures to offset the misgivings that spawn the kind of protests currently seen in the country.

The saffron party does not need to look any further than Odisha for reference. The state saw some protests against the CAA and concerns over the NRC, but a few words of assurance from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik were enough to allay all fears. Many political experts reckon that Patnaik’s undeniably secular credentials, proven over time, played a crucial role in quick and peaceful resolution of a potentially incendiary matter. If the BJP wants to rule the country for a long time to come, just like the Biju Janata Dal has been in Odisha, it must aspire for such secular credentials as Patnaik’s. There can be no two ways about it.

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