With BJP celebrating early Holi, what we can look forward to in the next two years
Rajya Sabha polls, Presidential poll, Uniform Civil Code, NPR and re-introducing the farm laws are just some of the steps, if not a switch to a Presidential system, that people now expect from the BJP
Now that results are known and reasons for such results analysed over and over again, what does the future hold? The consensus is that BJP won in four of the five states largely because of its welfare schemes for the poor, which included ‘free’ houses, toilets, foodgrains and vaccines. But then the same schemes were in operation in Punjab as well. Why did the Congress not get its benefit? Especially when it was the Congress which had brought in the Food Security Act and the MGNREGA. Is it because Congress failed to publicise its role? In both Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where Congress governments have implemented the same schemes, will the Congress reap the kind of political dividend that BJP has reaped in the four states?
Another pressing question is what might happen once these schemes are withdrawn at the end of this month. The economy is still in doldrums and the poorer sections might still need the support they received after the pandemic. Unemployment is still rampant and will this lot of people take kindly to such withdrawal?
An interesting feature of these elections is the curiously little effect that the long farmers’ agitation has had on results. Congress had opposed the farm laws from the beginning and lent its moral support to the farmers’ agitation. But it lost the election in Punjab to a party which was the first to notify the laws. AAP had adopted a fence sitter’s role vis-à-vis the farmers’ agitation and while the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) belatedly quit the NDA on the issue of the farm laws, it too failed to garner much support in the election.
While the Prime Minister did withdraw the farm laws, the union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar had claimed that the laws would return with some amendments. The BJP does not seem to have been affected by the farmers’ agitation in Western Uttar Pradesh despite farmers’ leaders, notably Rakesh Tikait, calling for ‘No Vote to BJP’. That is the reason there is every likelihood of the farm laws returning sooner than later.
There is also no doubt any longer that large swathes of the population have been swayed by BJP’s communal rhetoric that ‘Hindu khatre me hain’. From people belonging to upper middle classes to the poorer sections, this population clearly supports BJP’s agenda of showing Muslims their place and to keep them as second-class citizens. BJP leaders seem convinced that the party has benefitted from criminalising of Triple Talaq and the ‘Hijab’ controversy in Karnataka.
Apprehensions have already been expressed that laws will be brought to keep Christians in Goa on a leash. In October, 2021 the Government released Rs 3,900 Crore for the National Population Register (NPR) project and chances are that work on NPR would start soon.
There is also a real possibility that despite the Supreme Court asking the Yogi Government to return the property and fines confiscated from 274 anti-CAA activists, the new government will be emboldened to press ahead. The UP Government had enacted an Act in March last year to enable it to confiscate property on the ground of loss to public property –without following due process of law and trials. It remains to be seen how it proceeds to implement this.
Yogi Adityanath’s Government had also taken steps to implement a controversial Act to control population although even Government of India has acknowledged in parliament that population in India has stabilised. The propaganda that population of Muslims is increasing disproportionately has been bought by a large section of the people and the BJP government might be tempted to push for it.
Uniform Civil Code is another agenda that is likely to receive the blessing of the new Government. In January this year the Union Government filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court indicating that it had no proposal to implement uniform civil code immediately. But it also pointed out that the code figures in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution and the judiciary cannot interfere with it.
The other imponderable is whether the BJP will take the drastic step of switching over to a Presidential form of Government. BJP, which is riding on the charisma of Narendra Modi may be tempted to opt for it. Several BJP leaders have spoken in favour of the Presidential system in the past and it will come as no surprise if the party decides to take a sharp right turn.
(The writer is Consulting Editor, Sunday Navjeevan)
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)