Modi’s rap to both the Yogi Govt on the quota move and the Indore unit shows he is tired of clichés
Clearly, the big verdict for the Modi 2.0 government has been internalised differently by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and its units in the States. While the first is taking cautious, measured and deliberate steps to consolidate its innings, the latter have taken the Lok Sabha endorsement to justify their runaway agenda. So much so that no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had to intervene to stem the dichotomy and critic rants that the BJP’s left hand did not know what its right hand was doing. First, the Centre declared that the Yogi Adityanath government’s move to add 17 most backward castes to the Scheduled Castes list was unconstitutional. Second, Modi took up the issue of a senior party functionary’s son assaulting a government official, saying it was wrong and that the offender should not be spared. The first was clearly a jolt to the Adityanath government, considering it had even directed all district officers to co-opt groups like Kashyaps, Mallahs, Kumhars, Rajbhars and Prajapatis in the Scheduled Caste category with certificates. Clearly, it was intended as a loaded message before the bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. But the BJP cannot afford to look desperate for electoral numbers while exposing itself to the charge of violating Constitutional provisions, under which only the Parliament can suggest inclusions or deletions in the Scheduled Castes list. Article 341 empowers the President to assign any group to the SC category through a public notification on the Governor’s advice. If a notification is then released, it can only be changed by Parliament. Clearly, the Adityanath government had figured that the Centre would back this up, given the heft of its parliamentary numbers. So the Central party was absolutely right to assert that there would be no contravention of the rule of law, majority or not. Besides, the BJP, given the rift between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), does not want to give either a stick to beat it with. BSP supremo Mayawati has already gone to town, saying the move was not only unlawful but deceitful as it would reduce the named castes to the general category and disqualify them from quotas under the OBC category. She also urged the Centre to initiate Constitutional procedures to include these groups in the SC category and demanded an increase in the quota limit for them. Clearly, the BJP neither wants to make an enemy of Mayawati post the gathbandhan collapse or rule out the possibility of having an understanding with her subsequently. Besides, Modi has dimmed the politics of caste and region by emphasising on economic quotas and eliminating poverty across the board. So he doesn’t want to subscribe to the easy ploy of privileging one caste over another. As for the Indore incident, where the state unit members led by Akash Vijayvargiya were actually protesting a demolition drive and supporting illegal settlers, Modi stepped in personally to send a stern message that the party could not in any way afford to act in a manner that it accused the Opposition parties of or look anarchist. And just because he was the son of a VIP functionary, Bengal BJP in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, didn’t mean that he was entitled to do anything at will. Modi has invested a lot of political stock in Bengal and cannot afford to have the party machinery there compromised.
He himself is wary this time, knowing that he will be tested on his second term performance, as the first term was more like a grace period and a chance to settle into the idea of a regime change. But if he cannot deliver in the next five years, he could blunt his spurs. He is also consciously staying away from elaborating or commenting on the party’s aggressive, hardline agenda during the campaign, leaving that job tactfully to his deputy and Home Minister Amit Shah. And though right-wingers may defend him in the face of international media criticisms about him, the fact is Modi doesn’t want to be seen as a “divider-in-chief” that the Time magazine had labelled him as. He certainly doesn’t want to upset the young, knowledgeable voters, who expect a new formula from him and not cliches. And he doesn’t want tired narratives to upset the commitment of his development push. He has already emphasised on productive efficiency by asking Ministers to report for work by 9.30 am, getting transparent governance closer to the ground, particularly in States run by it, and getting rid of tainted bureaucrats. The BJP cannot look out if it has to constantly look within.
Thursday, 04 July 2019 | Pioneer
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