Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.
- Julia Child
Prior to the start of the first phase of polling for Lok Sabha this week the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out with its poll paper on Monday in the presence of all senior party leaders. Building on its ‘New India’ narrative, the manifesto depicts India’s progress in the last five years followed by a cluster of promises that envisage ambitious strides towards development. It took about a week after the Congress to release its election manifesto – ‘Sankalp Patra’, raising expectations that it would outdo its rival’s big-bang announcement of the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) to provide annual income support of Rs 72,000 to the 20 per cent poorest of the poor households. However, the ruling party’s manifesto contains no announcement of similar magnitude. Listing 75 milestones that India will achieve till 2022, when the nation celebrates 75 years of independence, Home Minister Rajnath Singh listed a slew of announcements ranging from a pension scheme for traders to abrogation of Article 370.
There are three aspects of this manifesto — the first is what the BJP clearly considers its strength in this election: nationalism or national security, secondly its focus on rural India and thirdly its stand on the economy and employment, which is perceived as the low point of the Modi government. The party repeats its stand on the “expeditious” construction of the Ram Mandir, and on Sabarimala, to secure “constitutional protection on issues related to faith and belief”. Empowering transgenders, enacting triple talaq and Citizenship Amendment Bill, abrogation of Article 370 as well as annulling Article 35A, NRC for other states, drafting a model police act and modernisation of police forces, setting up national institutes of teachers’ training, a national policy for reskilling & upskilling outline BJP’s novel promises.
It is now crystal clear that the BJP, if it retains power at the Centre after the upcoming general election, would reintroduce the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in order to grant Indian citizenship to large numbers of Hindu Bangladeshis who had illegally entered India. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party chief Amit Shah have been giving hints in this regard, the people of Assam in particular and the North-East in general have heard such a declaration through the party’s election manifesto which was released on Monday. It was thought for a moment that the united struggle of the North-East which stopped the government from tabling the Bill in the Upper House of Parliament would discourage the party from enacting the Bill again. The saffron party has remained adamant as far as the controversial Bill is concerned the same is highlighted in the ‘Sankalpa Patra’ released in the presence of Modi, Shah, Rajnath Nath Singh and others. It is now evident the party is ready to take on the indigenous people of the North-East. The party is not bothered about the sentiments expressed by the people two months back while opposing the Bill. With the BJP’s poll paper incorporating the Citizenship Bill, organisations like the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has reiterated its opposition to the Bill and said that any move to bring the bill back would be firmly resisted. And if so, will the Bill burn the North-East region yet again?