Election-centric citizenship bill

Published: January 10, 2019

Narendra Modi and his BJP are no more seen as the shoo-ins for the upcoming national elections in India. The political wind that had lifted Modi and his party to power in 2014 appears to be abating, with last month’s state elections being a clear sign. The Congress grabbed clear majorities in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh sending the BJP governments in these states packing. In Madhya Pradesh too, the Congress ended the BJP rule of almost 15 years, even though it fell a little short of an outright majority in the state assembly. Modi, the Indian PM, appears politically weak all of a sudden, and a contest is now expected in the April-May elections to Lok Sabha.

Desperate to get back to the crest of the popularity wave, Modi is hell bent on arousing fundamentalist sentiment by whatever way he can. That cow vigilante groups enjoy tacit approval from the BJP government is a common belief. The Indian prime minister is also making use of Pakistan-bashing to promote Hindu nationalism for electoral gains. Only recently, he repeated his bogus claim of a surgical strike inside Pakistan during a TV interview, in a clear election-centric move.

Treading the same lines, Lok Sabha has passed a new bill to grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities, not including Muslims. The bill covers Hindus, Christians and Sikhs who have lived in India for at least six years after shifting from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Muslims are barred from availing the facility, in what clearly appears as a pitch by a Hindu nationalist PM to voters in view of the approaching elections. The citizenship bill has, however, sparked protests in the northeastern state of Assam which houses millions of settlers from neighbouring countries. The indigenous population of Assam is opposing the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers who would take away jobs from them.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2019.

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