CAB: A Feather in Modi’s CAP

By H H Mohrmen

After the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) met its fate at the Rajya Sabha, the whole North East erupted in celebration of the death of the Bill that everybody hated and feared the most. The people who fought tooth and nail to stall the passage of the Bill have every right to celebrate its demise which has cast a pall of gloom on the horizon of the entire north eastern region of the country.

It was then followed by claims and counter claims of the reasons why the Bill was stalled in the Upper House. The claims and counter claim was about who had contributed the most to compel the NDA Government to decide not to introduce the Bill in the Rajya Sabha. It is true that despite all the efforts the NDA government put into its passage in the Lok Sabha there must have been some major reason which influenced the Modi Government to all of a sudden abandon the idea. But isn’t it too early for folks to claim the honour or even to celebrate the abortion of the CAB?

 In the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills region of the state, the two organisations which spearheaded the movement against the Bill were the Hynñiewtrep Youth Front and the Khasi Students Union who while fighting for the same goal used different strategies and made  different moves. And as expected the people of the State gave all out support to both the organisations. People who understand the tensions between the two organisations will understand the reason why the KSU hit the streets first to celebrate the failure of the NDA government to table the Bill.

To take the wind from the other organisation’s sail the KSU as usual took to the streets, went on rampage and attacked passers-by and shops which is rather uncalled for. The KSU and their victory march reminds us of similar incidents in the past where innocent people and even tourists where unnecessarily targeted by the marchers who the Organisation will later call anti social or fringe elements. The defeat of the Bill is not because of the protest by one or other organisation, but it is the combined efforts of the people of the North East which has compelled the NDA government to decide not to table the Bill.

For Conrad Sangma February 14, 2019 is unlike the previous Valentine’s Day celebration.   He was not only presented with bouquets of flowers, but was showered with words of praise from all over the North East. Some have even given him a heroic welcome when he arrived at the airport in Guwahati. Conrad was hailed as the hero or the saviour of the North East but how much is he really responsible for the NDA government’s decision to stop the plan to table the Bill in the floor of the Rajya Sabha? Only time and history will tell us, the answer to this question, but that did not stop the people from hero-worshipping him.

Not to be outdone by the popularity that Conrad garnered from the CAB debacle, the leader of the Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Party, Dr Mukul Sangma too claimed that the credit should go to the Congress and its MPs in the august house. They were the ones who had pressured the government to finally decide not to table the Bill in the house. Some are of the opinion that the credit should go to Kiren Rijiju the junior minister of the Home Department, Government of India, a man from North East who prevailed upon the Government and convinced the Prime Minister to abandon the idea of tabling the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The point is nobody will actually know who was responsible in convincing the Government to eat humble pie, but part of the truth is that it was the combined effort of all those who were involved in the protest and those who moved from pillar to post to lobby with the law makers and convinced them that this Bill is a threat to the indigenous people of the North East.

It cannot be denied that the leaders of the NDA government in the Upper House had also done their calculation and know very well that even if they introduce the Bill, it would not be able to get the support of the majority of the members of the Rajya Sabha, so the safe bet is to decide not to introduce the Bill. This argument can be supported by the fact that it was not only the CAB that the Government decided not to table in the house, but the NDA Government decided not to table the much talked about Triple Talaq Bill also. The BJP-led Government knew very well that they didn’t have the numbers to pass the Bills in the Rajya Sabha.

On the other hand, considering the timing that the Government chose to introduce the Bill which is during the election year, it can be concluded that this is but an election gimmick of the NDA government under the leadership of Narendra Modi. And if we look at the issue using this lens, then we will be able to understand that the move to introduce the Bill is only to appease a certain section of the society which the Party considers to be its major supporters. North Eastern states together have only 26 parliamentary seats in the Lower House. This is insignificant considering the support of the large sections of the population in the rest of the country that the BJP will get if it was able to pass the CAB.

But Modi also knew very well that come what may, the NDA government will benefit from this move as it will be able to conciliate a large part of the party’s constituents. The NDA government will be able to consolidate its support base even if it failed to table the Bill because during the election campaign, they will go to the people and say that they have done their level best to bring the legislation which is of interest to their supporters, but their hands were tied. They will again request the people to support them and give them one more time and most importantly a majority in both the Houses which would then enable them to do the needful.

To the people of the North East the party campaign strategy will be easy. It will first go to the people to clarify the doubts and misconception that the people have of the BJP. They will say that the party is not a communal party as some have alleged and the decision not to table the CAB is one clear example of that. If the Party was only interested in winning the support of the majority as some have alleged, then it would have gone ahead and passed the Bill in the Upper House, but aborted the idea because it respects the minorities in the country too. They will say that the CAB imbroglio proved beyond doubt that the BJP is also listening to the voices of the minority and respect the sentiments of the indigenous people of the North Eastern states of the country. The BJP stand would be that even if they stand to lose a large support base, they are willing to sacrifice that for the sake of the people of North East.

At the end of the day, it is a win for the NDA government any which way one looks at the issue. Even in what looks like a defeat, it could be a win in the final analysis. Ultimately, the outcome of the CAB fiasco is that Modi might still laugh his way to the polling booth.

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