Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lengthy replies in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Thursday to the debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s address underscored a push — on the eve of the Delhi Assembly polls — to deepen the communal divide which his senior colleagues in the BJP and the government have been working hard to sharpen as a vote-polarising tactic. Perhaps the most graphic example of this came on the same day as the PM’s intervention in Parliament as one of his ministers said suicide bombers were being trained at Shaheen Bagh.
When the country is in the grip of a serious economic crisis, it is noteworthy the PM’s reply showed no sign that the holder of the highest executive office was sensitive to the impact on the people’s lives of the economic downturn caused by faulty policies. The efforts of Opposition leaders to elicit from the PM a response framed under circumstances of urgency, and doing something special to alleviate the worsening jobs situation, proved futile.
The President’s address to the joint session is a document cleared by the government, and is seen as a statement of the government’s priorities and intentions. It made explicit that the government would be focused on politics, not economics. The politics surrounding the revised citizenship law gained pride of place in this as this law is tailormade for deepening communal schisms if the ruling party is intent on doing so.
Mr Modi lost no time in exploiting the situation. At the theoretical level, he had a hand packed with aces when he declared when a law passed by Parliament or a state Assembly is opposed by the people, this produces a recipe for chaos.
As a broad principle, this is unexceptionable. This is why, in the normal course, laws duly passed are not opposed wholesale and, when they are, the government and ruling party typically come forward with ameliorative amendments in the spirit of democratic sensitivity.
It is only a brute majoritarian government which, in the first place, brings a law that it knows will be deeply contentious and will be bitterly opposed, and then proposes to defend it in the public sphere on the ground that it has parliamentary sanction. In effect, this amounts to the defence of majoritarian rule, and not of democratic life, ethics and standards.
In the case of the BJP-RSS, the CAA springs from its belief which, at base, sees people of a certain minority faith as the hostile “other”. This is not proclaimed officially but no stone is left unturned to propagate this to the faithful. Forceful civil society interventions are the instrument to diffuse the ruling party’s ideological preferences to a wider public.
Looking at this controversy, there would have been no need for a CAA if India had only announced, without naming religious groups, that it would offer citizenship to those facing persecution. For the BJP-RSS, however, a certain religious category had to be openly declared as being excluded in order for it to assert its politics....