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Political Line | The ‘better’ political enemy, AAP’s rise, minority rights and more

BJP and Congress: Two to tango?

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament.

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament. | Photo Credit: PTI

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari thinks the decimation of the Congress is not good for India. Regional parties infringing into space created by a weakened Congress is not good, according to Mr. Gadkari. What does one make of this, particularly in the context of continuous calls for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ from many BJP protagonists? While the BJP and the Congress indeed are two antagonistic poles of Indian polity, their mutual hostility is tempered by concerns that they seem to share about regional parties. The Congress these days sound very friendly towards regional parties, as the BJP used to be, until the 2014 victory changed its approach for good.  Mr. Gadkari is not alone in thinking that the decline of the Congress is bad for the country. It is a fairly strong view within the Sangh Parivar. The president of the BJP in Punjab went as far as suggesting that the Congress was better, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was emerging the frontrunner in the recent Assembly elections. The BJP and the Congress both represent a nationalistic approach to India’s politics and governance, albeit with their different imaginations of the nation, and competition for power. Regionalists such as Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao and community elites wary of a strong Centre, such as Naga leaders, see the BJP and the Congress as two sides of the same coin.

Meanwhile, the BJP is doubling down on its efforts to corner the AAP, whose leader Arvind Kejriwal hopes to emerge as the main challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2024. The Centre has significant power in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, to be exercised through the LG and the Delhi Police. The tussle between the AAP and the BJP over the affairs of Delhi is an ongoing saga. The BJP has helped itself with more powers, by allowing the Centre more say in the running of the Municipal Council of Delhi. Three separate Municipal Councils in Delhi have been merged into one through a Central law. Union Home Minister Amit Shah launched a broadside against the AAP during the discussion in Parliament.

Non-resident super citizens and resident lesser citizens?

Enabling voting facility for Indian citizens living in a foreign country continues to be in the active consideration of the Centre. A political consensus on the issue also appears to be emerging. Indians can live in a foreign country and participate in Indian politics, but can an Indian be allowed to wish all countries flourish and prosper? A girl in Karnataka is facing the wrath of the state, for wishing all countries good!

Affinity to a community or identity that was once assumed to be measurable is no longer the case. Increasing intermingling between communities, through migration and economic contacts is making watertight distinctions impossible and even undesirable. Boundaries are fading. The judiciary is now sceptical of the “affinity test” used to sift through anthropological and ethnological traits to link a person to a tribe, writes Krishnadas Rajagopal.

The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India | Photo Credit: Subramanium S.

Who is a minority in India? Minority rights is often associated with Muslims and Christians in Indian public discourse. But Hindus can also be minorities in India, depending on which part of India we are talking about. The Centre told the Supreme Court that States could declare minorities within their jurisdiction, in line with the existing norms that accord minority status at the State level.  “Matters like declaring that followers of Judaism, Baha’ism and Hinduism who are minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the State and laying down guidelines for identification of minority at State-level may be considered by the State government concerned,” the Ministry of Minority Affairs told the SC.

Temple dances: the Left and the right

Last week, we discussed the campaign in Karnataka to bar non-Hindu, particularly Muslim traders, from Hindu temple festivals. This week, a non-Hindu Bharatnatyam dancer was removed from the list of performers at a dance and music event in connection with a festival of the Koodalmanikayam temple, Irinjalakuda, in Thrissur district. The irony is that the dancer, who says she practises no religion, has come under attack from Islamic clerics for learning Bharatnatyam!

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) in Tamil Nadu has decided to be actively involved in temple festivals. The party thinks the Sangh Parivar gains significant soft power in society by being in control of temple activities, and the party should counter it. In recent years, the CPI(M) has been active in Hindu cultural mobilisations in Kerala. Party activists are encouraged to be involved in Hindu religious and cultural events and practices.

Race to the bottom

Engineers and Ph.D.s queueing up for class four employment has now become routine in India, indicating the severe lack of jobs on the one hand, and the inferior quality of the country’s education on the other.  In this analysis, our contributor says “the spillover effect of periodic unemployment within middle-rung and higher-rung professional jobs in India’s job market has pushed more qualified youth to crowd lower rung government jobs.”

How workers are treated by the growing gig economy must be a concern for any democracy. A recent innovation of super quick delivery of food and grocery by some platforms has brought to focus the physical danger that these workers take for meagre earnings. In this analysis, our contributors note: “It is the earnings of workers that represent the only variable cost element; cost reduction finally pinches his earnings. It forces him to ‘run twice as fast just to stay in the same place’ to quote  Alice in Wonderland.”

A new Kerala model?

The CPI(M)-led Kerala government is pushing the State towards capital intensive, big projects-driven development that has not been its hallmark until now. The SilverLine high speed rail project that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is staking his prestige on has split the State, and the ruling Front even. “The social, economic and environmental feasibility of the ₹63,941 crore standalone SilverLine rail corridor — the Centre has not accorded its approval as yet — has already been called into question by experts, political opponents and concerned environmentalists,” writes S. Anandan.

Federalism Tract

What the first Naga woman in the Rajya Sabha says

S. Phangnon Konyak was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha as Nagaland’s first woman member on March 24. In its entire history, Nagaland has not elected a single woman to the State legislature. The combination of tribal and Christian conservatism in the State has been restrictive for women -- so much so that the Pradesh Congress Committee president Kewekhape Therie was quoted as saying that Nagaland’s 60 legislators destroyed the image of “the Christian State” by electing a woman to the RS. “I was interested in joining a national party. The growth trajectory of the BJP and its organisational set-up interested me,” she says. “A devout Christian, she hopes her association with the party would translate into economic, social and political growth for everyone, especially for women, in Nagaland,” Rahul Karmakar writes in a profile. This is also indicative of the BJP’s ability to push the boundaries of political inclusion.

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin arrives at Parliament House complex, in New Delhi.

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin arrives at Parliament House complex, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: PTI

Meanwhile, there DMK is effecting a shift in its approach towards subsidies and the Dravidian model of development, my colleague T. Ramakrishnan writes. That said, TN Chief Minister M.K. Stalin is signalling there can be no compromise on the party’s commitment to social justice politics. A Minister who was accused by a Dalit employee of the State government of using caste slur saw his portfolio changed -- to backward class empowerment, of all things!

AFSPA scaled back in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland

The Union Home Ministry had constituted a committee on December 26, 2021 to study if the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act could be withdrawn from some areas in Nagaland in the wake of growing civilian anger against a botched ambush by an elite armed forces unit that led to the killing of 13 civilians at Oting in Mon district. Now, the Centre has rolled back the ‘disturbed area’ labelling from many parts, which in turn will remove AFSPA from those areas.

Assam and Meghalaya have resolved a part of the border dispute between them, raising hopes of similar agreements between Assam and other neighbours including Nagaland and Mizoram.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2022 2:14:51 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/the-better-political-enemy-aaps-rise-minority-rights-and-more/article65284514.ece