That the UPA 2 squandered the reasonably good mandate it got in 2009 elections, better in any case than what it got in 2004 through scams of astronomical proportions and abject misadministration and that it is desperate to retrieve its falling fortunes can be no justification for its blatant attempt to distort the secular fabric of the nation. The recent chorus for reservations for Muslims and for passing Communal Violence Bill cannot but lead the mature, discerning and largely unbiased populace to the above conclusion.
Salman Khurshid and P Chidambaram, supposedly two of the best legal brains in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet seem to have recommended a 6% reservation for Muslims. They are quite considerate in that this will be within the 27% meant for Other Backward Classes. That the constitution does not permit a religion based reservation is a frivolous claim to hold their enthusiasm. This can be circumvented. How? Give it the garb-the reservation is for “backward class” Muslims and not for Muslims in general. Take the precedents from Andhra and Tamilnadu, both of which have reservation for Muslims. And you have the successful prescription for overcoming the constitutional constraints. In the Supreme Court, which over the years has been stretching the import of Article 16(4) beyond recognition, one has a sympathetic listener, should the matter ever go for appeal. (An appeal against Andhra Government’s reservation for Muslims is pending before the Supreme Court.)
But is the UPA 2’s presumption that this tokenism, this appeasement will revive its electoral fortunes valid? DMK Government in Tamilnadu, which in many ways resembled UPA 2, be it corruption or inefficiency, introduced a 3.5% reservation for Muslimns and Christians. What mileage did it get? It suffered the worst defeat in its history.
UPA 2’s next desperation can be seen in its attempt to push the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 or the Communal Violence Bill. What does the Bill seek to do? Sec 3 (e) of the Bill defines a “group” as religious or linguistic minority or Scheduled Cast or Schedule Tribe; any offence against the “group” is punishable. And what are the offences?
- Sexual assault against a member of the “group” is punishable with 10-14 years imprisonment. Note that sexual assault on (say rape of) a woman belonging to the majority community is not punishable under this Bill as she does not belong to the “group.”
- Any article, speech, telecast or broadcast against the group is punishable with 3 years imprisonment.
- Organized communal violence against the group.
- Financial or other support to an offence against the group.
Are the above not crimes if committed against majority community? Yes, they are; but one has to seek remedy through the labyrinth of Indian Penal Code or address it through Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Will this not give imprimatur to the blatant anti Hindu rhetoric of the likes of Digvijay Singh? Will it not isolate the minority community forever? Will the polarization of the society which will be an assured outcome of this Bill not be a greater evil than the so called protection it offers?
It is nobody’s case that minorities cannot be victims or they cannot be protected. It is just that this protection should extend equally to the majority.
Further, is squandering the popular mandate anything new for Congress? Did not Rajiv Gandhi achieve it painstakingly in late 80s? How did he lose his vote bank- exactly in the two spheres where UPA 2 is losing viz. Corruption and Minority appeasement. If it was Bofors for Rajiv Gandhi, it is 2G for UPA; only the size has increased manyfold. If it was Muslim Women Bill for Rajiv Gandhi in the wake of Shah Bhano judgment, it is Communal violence Bill for UPA 2. While Muslim Women Bill promised to protect minorities, what did it end up doing? It transferred the responsibility for paying the alimony from the erring husband to the unaccountable Waqf Board. A great injustice was done to the Muslim women. Twenty five years later UPA 2 is trying to repeat what Rajiv Gandhi did in 1986.
The answer to all of UPA 2’s woes lies in good governance. It is as simple as that; as difficult as that. It has lost just 2 ½ years since the last election. It still has another 2 ½ years. It need not panic as if everything is lost. It can still weed out the corrupt and inefficient from the cabinet. Equally important is the ruthless removal of intellectually arrogant members of the cabinet who are not team players. Prime Minister should be empowered to act as one. Delivery instead of rhetoric should be the focus.
Look at Nitish Kumar- solid performance complimented by secular make over. Look at Narendra Modi. He has shown the nation what good governance is. Though his vote bank would have appreciated, it does not seem to mind the loss of secular credentials.
UPA 2 needs performers, not intellectuals. Chidambaram uses his intellect for defending intelligence failure. Kapil Sibal’s intelligence lies in negating the loss in 2G. Jayanti Natarajan’s intelligence results in dumping the National Manufacturing Policy.
After delivering good governance, showing performance, UPA 2 also can afford to indulge in these image make-overs with the seemingly minority protection initiatives, just as Narendra Modi is attempting to do now; not vice versa.
Otherwise it will be putting the cart before the horse.