Amit Shah inserted into his party’s manifesto that he’ll abrogate Article 370. Now he’s in pole position to do so. He’s already said that he’ll have zero tolerance for terror. When Sonia Gandhi ruled India, she took objection to the term zero tolerance. She said that it was an American concoction, from a people, the American, who has no tolerance for anything. One of her wise moments of witty candour!
When Maharajah Hari Singh acceded to India, he did so under J&K being allowed special status. That meant Article 370 inserted into the Indian Constitution. That meant autonomy to J&K, the autonomy that has slowly but surely been eroded.
Amit Shah has sworn to uphold the Indian Constitution. Does that not mean Article 370 too? Or is 370 not part of the Constitution? In any case, abrogation of 370 will necessitate a constitutional amendment, and such an amendment will require two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Nitish Kumar has already said that he doesn’t want to scrap 370, so even with all good tidings, the BJP/NDA combine will have about 320 votes in the Lok Sabha to abrogate 370. That is nowhere near a two-thirds majority of 364 seats required in a Lok Sabha of maximum 545 seats. In the Rajya Sabha, things are even worse. The BJP has only 74 seats there in a house of 245 seats, far from being even an absolute majority.
370 is therefore not going anywhere anytime soon. Removing it was just a ploy to gin up the base. The base believes that the Kashmiri Muslim doesn’t want to be part of India; if only the special privileges accorded him were removed, then he would be forced to rest content. The security forces and even influencers like Anupam Kher and Kangana Ranaut have fed off this narrative.
If only it was as simple as that. If only India did not have an “us versus them” Kashmir policy. If only India had any Kashmir policy at all, other than ham-handed tactics.
As with 370, so too with the Ram Mandir. Modi & Co were surprisingly quiet about building the Ram Mandir during his first tenure. So too during the election campaign. The excuse was that the matter was sub-judice, pending before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has already torn apart the Allahabad High Court’s judgment to parcel out the land to three parties. Now it has set up a team of mediators. Perhaps it’s trying to buy time, but how much time can it really buy? From 1992 to 2019 is a long time. The nation awaits, one way or the other.
But the Supreme Court is a group of wise men and women who will not do anything to tear apart the social fabric of the country. It will also not want to be seen to be taking sides. How then can the temple be built on the very site that the bhakt demands?
Modi 2.0 has so much more to worry about than building the temple. Elections 2019 were a close call for Modi even though it seems otherwise in hindsight. A one-term PM such as Rajiv Gandhi got known for computerization; another one-termer like Narasimha Rao got plaudits for economic reforms.
What did Modi 1.0 get famous for? Calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff at Balakot? Sure, but little else. Everywhere Modi looks, he sees a stark landscape and humongous challenges. Pakistan showed us after Balakot that our military is antiquated; that even a practically bankrupt country like itself has better equipment than us. Defence procurement has been mired in mud during the Sonia Gandhi era and then again with Rafale during Modi 1.0.
The economy is even worse off than defence. Make in India proved to be just hype. What can India do to increase jobs? Manufacturing is always cited as the solution, but India has never been a manufacturing powerhouse. Trade with the US has taken a hit, taking along with it software jobs. It seems like a really bleak scenario, perhaps never as bleak as when before 1991. Can Sitharaman do a Manmohan Singh?
Foreign policy, and again India is jammed. The country has virtually no Afghan policy. Ties with the US have been hit because of trade. China continues to be unfriendly. Pakistan will self-implode but not do anything in India’s favour. The Russians are moving towards Pakistan. Traditional Muslim ally Iran has become wary because Modi has moved closer to its rivals, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We are truly non-aligned today, that is we don’t seem to have any friends. Oh, how can you live in the world alone.
Modi definitely wants to leave a legacy a la Rajiv and Rao. He will let the Ram temple issue slide. The bhakt would once again have been had.
And then there is the uniform civil code. Triple talaq was an easy one, not just because it was so egregious, but also because so many Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have banned it. But any further creep into Muslim personal rights and Muslims are going to resist. Strongly. What will Modi gain by needling a somewhat already restive population?
When 2024 rolls around, the troika of 370, Ram Mandir, and UCC will be trotted out once again. Why doesn’t the bhakt understand that his idols have feet of clay and are not going to do anything for him in any of these regards? Why does the base fall right for the tricks of the politicians? One time and each time