As far as the public’s mood on demonetisation is concerned, it suffices to say that this government will probably meet the same fate that the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government had to meet following its forced sterilisation campaign. There are lots of parallels between both the decisions. It is not surprising therefore that a similar prognosis fits the bill. Such was the blowback of forced sterilisation that none of the governments that came later ever mustered the courage to do something further on the issue. That is, before RSS got the idea a few months back.
Sources tell TSI that at the behest of RSS, the incumbent NDA government is all set to tackle the issue once again. May be not in as explicit a manner as it was under Sanjay Gandhi’s directives, but something nastily close.
Sources say that government is all set to bring in laws that will restrict government doles such as loans and subsidies to only those families that adhere to the two-child norm. It does not need a genius to figure out that this is directed towards the minorities in general and Muslims in particular. However, the ruling dispensation is willing to take this risk because it has given up on the Muslim votes and understands that it is not going to get any in the future either.
The decision is part of the strategy to win the 2019 General Elections. It is trying to repeat the successful experiment of 2014 polls that fetched BJP 31 per cent of the popular votes. The first leg is Uttar Pradesh where the party bagged as much as 58 per cent of the votes. The party wants to keep these numbers intact.
BJP is particularly eyeing Dalit and OBC votes. By calibrating its strategy to match those of the ruling dispensation in Uttar Pradesh, BJP wants to make a dent into Dalit votes in the state. That is why BSP is the primary target on BJP’s radar in the state, while SP is a distant second. BJP considers BSP as a soft target, and that is why it has shown remarkable eagerness in bringing BSP leaders to its fold.
This was evident during the recently concluded Winter Session of the Parliament. BSP’s national General Secretary Satish Chandra Mishra saw a journalist loitering in the corridors, who is known to be close to BJP. Mishra half-jokingly commented that his (journalist’s) being in town means someone from BSP was about to jump ship.
As if on cue, two of BSP’s big leaders joined BJP the very next day. This includes the President of Akhil Bhartiya Valmiki Samaj. The BJP feels it is easy to let BSP’s stallions alone but buy up its ponies.
BJP had already prepared the ground by appointing Keshav Prasad Maurya as Party President in Uttar Pradesh. They further augmented it by engineering the defection of Swami Prasad Maurya from BSP’s fold. BJP thinks that such persistent defection of second rung leadership will weaken the party massively.
Says Manoj, a political analyst who keeps a close eye on BJP’s strategy, “BJP is again banking on the votes of backward castes and Dalits. BJP knows that it will not get Muslim vote come what may. That’s why it is not even giving it any consideration. However, it will like to make dent in both BSP and SP vote banks.”
As expected, RSS is in full control of decision-making as far as finalising electoral strategy is concerned. It is also dealing with the prospect of returning to power. RSS believes that if Congress and other parties are “appeasing” minority voters, they should be allowed to do so without much ado. However, RSS wants to keep the community on the edge. Accordingly RSS wants to hype up the triple-Talaq issue to such a level that the community gets worried and is goes genuflecting to accept the BJP’s will on the issue. For example, Muslim women organisations trained by RSS were at the forefront of the movement asking women to be allowed inside Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.
Dodging the role of RSS, Dr Najma Heptullah, BJP leader and governor of Manipur, says, “BJP’s vision is very clear, that social ills should be done away with, whether it is inside Muslim community or any other community. Women should get the same rights as men. No community can expect to progress unless half of its population is not made to participate in the process.”
“Government’s goals are very clear. It wants the Muslim society to become part of the mainstream. The problem is, Muslim society does not readily accept these programmes as enthusiastically as other communities do. However, the good development is that women from the community are coming forward and accepting the change. The results are starting to show. And if we keep the pace, the community will leave everyone behind in development,” she added in good measure.
A section of leaders from inside Congress also maintain that Congress must work for the betterment of the Muslim community, rather than doing political posturing. Many Congress leaders don’t agree with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s decision to grant an extra hour and a half of leave to Muslim employees for Friday prayers.
Weighing in on the issue, Najma Heptullah says, “This is sort of appeasement. I don’t oppose it but it would have been better had the Chief Minister started programmes that would have benefitted the community socially and economically. But Congress has always treated Muslims as a vote bank, and this decision smacks purely of that attitude. He (Rawat) could have announced some sort of scholarship instead.”
Najma can posture as much as she wants to, but sources from inside BJP reveal that the RSS actually wants Congress and other parties to keep pandering to Muslims while they make a dent into OBC and Dalit vote bank.
This latest salvo regarding benefits to small families is RSS’ brainchild as well. The motive here is clear that only those with two kids will benefit from government programmes, doles and subsidies. This will put Muslims in dire straits. BJP has already started this in Assam, where it has passed a law restricting anyone with more than two kids to hold government jobs.
The same norm is about to be implemented as an eligibility criteria for the Municipal Council elections. Muslims make majority in several districts in Assam and BJP’s attitude towards the community has remained acrimonious at best.
Government will, however, project this as a step taken for the benefit of the nation by suggesting that it will lessen the load of subsidy and doles. It is expected that Prime Minister Modi will himself lead the campaign.
RSS’s red-herring over growing Muslim population is very old. Its twisted logics and rationale are repeatedly spread by its ideologue on social media and other platform. The disinformation campaign has made it difficult for common people to differentiate between fact and fiction.
Sangh supremo Mohan Baghwat openly asked Hindus in a rally in Agra to give birth to multiple kids in order to offset “Muslim demographic threat”.
Since that Plan A has few takers, RSS consequently pressurised the government to implement its own agenda in the guise of something else. It suits them just too well that the incumbent Prime Minister is also the president of the body that makes population policy. However, after India Gandhi burnt her fingers, none of her successors even looked towards this department, as it was considered a hot-button issue.
“Well! Modi Ji wants to do everything that no one else thought it prudent to do,” said Manish Tiwari, spokesperson of Congress party. “He really wants his name to be etched on the walls of history,” he added, with tongue firmly in cheek.
This via-media or red-herring, suits well for the government. Implementing the two-child norm directly would have turned the entire issue legally unviable, not to mention explosive. This back-door implementation will help blunt both these aspect.
The first area to be hit will be subsidy disbursement. Government will make it impossible for any family with more than two kids to get these subsidies. Niti Aayog has already presented an approach paper in this regard in front of the government. Rumour has it that the final draft is also ready and it can be implemented rather soon. No prizes for guessing which community will be pushed to the edge because of this decision.
The government is similarly also trying to redefine what “Marginal Farmers” mean. There are several plans in place to tackle this issue. A report by Niti Aayog suggests that according to 2011 Census, as many as 16.8 crore families out of a total 24.7 crore families reside in villages.
The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)’s own survey in 2013 regarding “Estimation of the condition of agrarian families” maintain that only 9.02 crore families out of these 16.8 crore are actually involved in agrarian production activities. But this is not all. The survey also suggested that those marginal farmers with land holding of less than two hectares cannot even meet their daily expenses from agriculture and allied activities. As many as 7.81 crore families cannot meet their expenses merely depending on agriculture and allied activities.
The government wants this particular section to benefit. It is planning to augment the rural infrastructure in order to link these jobs with such marginalised families. The idea is to provide some sort of regular income in order to stem their migration towards cities. These families will also get direct financial benefits and government wants Gramin Banks to play a role here.
Says, SS Ahluwalia, MOS Agriculture, “Farmers are the top priority of the Agriculture Ministry. Especially those marginal farmers whose income barely meets their needs. Our target is to financially help them in a way that their income doubles by 2022.”
Government has devised as many as 17 programmes directed towards marginal farmers. These programmes are spread across several sectors including those under Rural Development, Road Transport and Railway ministries. This will also deal with providing employment opportunities for the youngsters, so that they don’t end up believing Prime Minister’s promise as a mere “Jumla.”
This is especially important because the government has completed half of its term and has fewer days to implement programs than it had till now.
Says Skills Minister, Rajiv Prasad Rudy, “Our priority is to provide jobs to the youngsters, however our efforts are also towards self-employment so that these youngsters become entrepreneurs.”
All this is indicative that government is going to take some big decisions in the coming days. How effective will these steps be is anyone’s guess. What is beyond guess is RSS’ grip on the government and its policy formulation.