Citizenship law is just a gimmick, BJP only wants to distract

Activists burn copies of Citizenship Amendment Bill during a protest against the passing of the bill in Parliament, in Bhopal, Thursday. Photo: PTI

The BJP loves to thrive on disruptions, chaos, panic and uncertainty triggered by its politics. It always follows the simple strategy of creating a divide, manipulating the majority through hyperbole, fiction and fact, and, by the time people understand its real motive, the absurdity of the disruption caused by it, moving on to something else.

Such is the brilliance of its disruptive politics that the BJP always ends up being the beneficiary, even when people suffer the consequences. The Ram Mandir agitation left a trail of blood in India, but the BJP went on to make immense gains. The country’s secular fabric was torn forever by the riots in Gujarat, but it established the BJP’s future leadership.

In the winter of 2016, the Modi sarkar literally brought the entire country on the road with its decision to outlaw currency notes. Lives were disrupted, people lost their hard-earned money, jobs and businesses. The absurd decision failed to eradicate black money or corruption. Yet, in the assembly elections that followed, BJP swept Uttar Pradesh.

The credulous Indians


The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is yet another example of its disruptive politics—a specimen of its strategy of creating an unnecessary divide to polarize people, create chaos and benefit from it. If taken to its logical conclusion, it will lead to massive unrest and suffering in India. But, by the time people understand that the CAB is a blunder, the BJP would have moved on to a new distraction after reaping an electoral windfall.

Also read: Deconstruction of India through Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

The assumption among BJP fans is it is creating a Hindutva rashtra through the CAB and a national registry of citizens (NRC). But, to have any impact on the demography of the country, the CAB has to be implemented with the National Registry of Citizens. First, the government will have to identify bona-fide Indian citizens and separate them from illegal immigrants. Then, from these immigrants it will have to identify Muslims so as to make them ineligible for citizenship.

In a country of 1.3 billion and nearly 20 crore Muslims, the idea itself is ridiculous. India can neither afford to drive 20 crore people out of the country, nor can it marginalize them by curtailing their rights and liberties. Any such attempt would plunge the country into unimaginable anarchy.

Yet, the Hindutva brigade is going ga-ga over the idea of a nationwide NRC and amendments to the citizenship laws. The euphoria is similar to the post-demonetisation mood among Indians that made their suffering bearable only because they presumed the rich and the corrupt would suffer more.

There is a phrase for this: cutting the nose to spite the face.

The biggest victims of an NRC, if it is implemented across India, will be the ordinary citizens. If the government decides to create a register, everyone — not just Muslims — in India will have to prove their citizenship, regardless of age, creed or community.

In a country where ordinary things like applying for a driving license or a passport is difficult, staking claims to citizenship will be a massive disaster with wasted man-hours, scope for harassment and corruption, and unnecessary anxiety and fear of persecution. In Assam, the NRC cost the government ₹16,000 crore — a per capita expenditure of almost ₹5,000 per citizen (the population of Assam is 3.2 crore). Even if the costs do not escalate due to geographic factors, a pan-India NRC would cost a whopping ₹65,00,00,00,00,00,000.

Also read: Citizenship Bill: BJP paying the price of ignoring Assam’s history

To this cost add the time spent by every individual to gather documents required for claiming citizenship, and the money burnt on filing applications, and, if required reviews and challenges. Like demonetisation, the NRC-CAB exercise is bound to be a disaster for every Indian and nobody is going to benefit from it.

Name of the game

The problem with the BJP is that it needs to keep its followers distracted from real-life issues all the time. It treats its voters like junkies who need a higher dose of disruption to stay within its folds. Normal, bread-and-butter politics doesn’t serve the BJP’s interests.

Over the past five years, the BJP has rolled out one emotive issue after another to take attention away from the economy, the problem of joblessness and its failure to deliver most of the promises made during elections.

The BJP knows that the economy is a mess and its promise of a $5-trillion India is now a joke. It knows that even if it pumps large sums of money into new projects, spends huge sums on infrastructure, the impact would not be visible for another 2-3 years. So, it needs to create new slogans, deeper divisions and bring about bigger disruptions to keep people away from hitting the streets for jobs, growth and a better life.

The idea of a pan-India NRC is still-born. Just as people realized the sheer absurdity of the idea of demonetisation as an antidote to black money, they would soon understand that CAB-plus-NRC would achieve nothing. But, by then the BJP would have moved on to something else—maybe a grand ceremony to build the biggest Ram temple in the world with money pinched from the pockets of citizens.

And, like always, the credulous people of India will go ga-ga with joy.