How BJP is delivering on its three promises

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has all but delivered the three goals of its ideology. These are the abolition of Article 370, the Ayodhya issue and a Uniform Civil Code. All three of these demands were negative and sought something from India’s Muslims. In Ayodhya, the BJP wanted them to give up their mosque; on the issue of the civil code, it was giving up their personal law; and in Kashmir, it was for Muslims to surrender their constitutional autonomy.

It is because the BJP and its leadership have continually thought of ways to deliver these that they have made substantial progress, if not outright victory on each. There is no better indicator of this than the fact that even some in the Congress backed the adventurism in Kashmir. The Opposition has no real opinion or belief and it is why they, like the rest of us, were caught off-guard.

Having studied the issue, it was concluded by the BJP leadership (by which one means the prime minister and the home minister, because it is apparent that nobody else counts) that though the abolition of Article 370 was tricky if not impossible, there were ways around it.

Their solution was to hollow out autonomy in a continuation of the way it was done in the 1950s under Jawaharlal Nehru. I cannot think of anyone who anticipated the events in Kashmir or the way in which they were achieved. And this is because, to repeat, only the BJP has continually focussed on its agenda. The rest assumed that things were too complicated, both in the international realm and through constitutional entanglements, for the BJP to make any real progress in Kashmir. 

There is not much thought India has given to what Kashmiris are going through in terms of their identity and their everyday lives. They have lived under military rule for three decades, and India is at the bottom of the index of media freedom because for large parts of the year Internet connectivity is cut off in Kashmir. This looking away from the rest of us has helped the Indian state achieve what it wanted to through the jackboot from the 1950s to the developments of recent days. And it is what has helped the BJP deliver on the first of its three political promises.

The Uniform Civil Code demand has a primary target. It is not triple talaq, which is incidental and about which neither the BJP nor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cares. Gender equality and the rights of women can hardly be the pressing concern of organisations that deliberately exclude women. The RSS website has an FAQ section which reveals the following: "Can the women become RSS members?” The answer is "No. The RSS was founded to organise the Hindu society and considering the practical limitations, allowed entry to Hindu males only…” The RSS packs female Hindutvawadis off to its associate and ancillary bodies because they’re unfit for the core group. One does not know of any movement to open up the RSS to women or any demand from its supporters to give Hindu women access.

So then what is the primary target of the Uniform Civil Code demand? It is polygamy. The fear that Muslims are changing India’s demography. There is little or no role for truth or data here. The fact is that fertility rate of Muslims is nationally dropping faster than those of Hindus, that the fertility rate of Kashmir’s Muslims is lower than that of Gujarat’s Hindus, that fertility rates worldwide are falling and are linked to economics, or even that studies show that the incidence of polygamy among Hindus is equal to or higher than that among Muslims.

 
None of this is important or liable to be believed. As expressed by the prime minister himself once, the issue is that of “hum paanch, hamarey pachchees”. Gender equality and triple talaq are the entry point into the Uniform Civil Code, and they will be the reason why, as is quite certain now, polygamy will be struck down sooner than we think. That will settle the Uniform Civil Code debate.

In Ayodhya, the driving force was the offending structure. Once it had been flattened, the BJP backed off because it had achieved the primary aim of mass mobilisation preceding and following the vandalism and the attendant carnage. The matter of the temple has been revived because the forces aligned with the BJP all these decades must now get their due.

The issue of the Ram Janmabhoomi has turned from justice and reparation to that of why a temple should not be immediately built. It is still the Hindus who are aggrieved and they must be assuaged by the construction of the temple. The judiciary has given one appalling judgment (the Lucknow Bench's decision to carve up the land) on this and we should expect that something similar will come that will prioritise the temple. The trial of the accused, including Lal Krishna Advani, continues.

Because it is no longer even-handed, the issue of justice has become secondary to religion and it is seen as a Hindu versus Muslim thing. It is easily and automatically assumed that all of us are partisans from the particular angle of the faith we were born into. This is relatively new and not something that was the case 30 years ago. 

It is the credibility of this prime minister, his success at making overt majoritarianism acceptable, and the spectacular victories he has achieved for his party that have made it possible for the BJP to all but deliver on the three goals.


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