An intense appeal by Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu for an enlightened debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Population Register couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. While most of the opposition to CAA is crassly political, ignorance of a large section of the society provided fertile ground for scare mongering and politics of manufactured paranoia.
However, there appears a method in the madness. Congress and other opposition parties have sensed an opportunity to go back to the era of pseudo-secularism with vote bank politics at its core. Post Shah Bano and Ayodhya movement, Congress and others had tried to give some different signals. When the heydays of socialism were over Sharad Pawar – who had earlier named his breakaway group as Socialist Congress – sensed the changing winds and named his new party in 1999 as Nationalist Congress.
Congress too had resorted to what the media described as soft Hindutva. Ram Van Gaman Path finding a mention in Congress manifesto for MP elections last year, is a case in point. However, these cosmetic changes failed to earn any rewards in 2019. Frustrated, the only option before the grand old party of India was to resort to its old tactic of vote bank politics.
Most parties other than BJP are accustomed to look at Muslims plainly and simply as a vote bank. But the situation has changed now. This is hardly surprising as minorities in New India too have aspirations for a prosperous future, where Jammu & Kashmir could attract investment and Muslim women could rightfully hope for equal respect and protection from injustice. However, in CAA this vote bank politics found a breather as a massive misinformation campaign has been unleashed on it.
Efforts to once again look at the minorities as a vote bank are bound to fall flat for three specific reasons. First, the more people gathered deeper insight into the provisions of CAA, the faster has been the return to normalcy. In essence, CAA only gives priority and facilitation to the most persecuted amongst the lot seeking refuge in India.
Existing laws are capable enough to grant citizenship to even Muslims and that too from any country on Earth, albeit after a stay in India for 11 years. The period of wait for persecuted minorities is shortened simply because they are already here for years. Simply put, this is positive discrimination, almost akin to giving priority to women or marginalised sections of society, or to the physically challenged. As reiterated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, Indian citizens have absolutely no reason to worry about provisions of CAA.
Second, minorities, especially Muslims, cannot be hoodwinked any further with the same old tactics. They know how successive governments played into the hands of regressive elements harping only on emotive issues. It was during NDA-1 that computers made their first entry into most of the madrasas. Similarly, it was the resoluteness of the Modi government that saw the practice of triple talaq being ended through a law. Efforts to promote a culture of entrepreneurship amongst the minorities and especially Muslims got a remarkable fillip during NDA-2. The key to this transformation was a changed outlook that refused to consider minorities as just guaranteed vote banks.
Third, slowly but certainly, sections amongst the Muslims are realising that in an age of aspirations, issues other than identity issues are fast becoming more critical. Already, the traditional thinking that Muslims may not accept the law banning triple talaq, or nullification of Article 370, or the apex court judgment on Ayodhya issue has been unquestionably demolished. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Muslim male youngsters may not want their female counterparts to get equality of respect, of security and of opportunities as well.
Lastly, it would be educative – especially for those criticising the government for its alleged disregard to a more populistic opinion – to understand what Edmund Burke had said in his famous address. He had said, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Modi, like a true leader, is using his judgement for the larger good of countrymen.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.