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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 13, March 21, 2015

Growing Opposition amid Change in Public Mood

Sunday 22 March 2015, by SC


EDITORIAL The Budget session of Parliament is witnessing a spirited struggle by the entire Opposition against the BJP’s anti-farmer land acquisition legislation. The Opposition’s resistance to the legislation, which seeks to replace the comprehensive Land Acquisition Bill piloted by the Congress and supported by all parties (including the BJP when it was in the Opposition) in 2013, is essentially aimed at placating and appeasing the corporate lobby and multinationals. This is being exposed by the Opposition parties with the Congress in the lead thereby torpedoing PM Narendra Modi’s desperate bid to portray the legislation as being pro-farmer and the Opposition as hostile to the farmers’ interests. What is being brought into focus by the Opposition is the undeniable truth that the legislation is bereft of two major issues highlighted in the 2013 Bill: the provision specifying consent of the landowners for acquiring land and the one relating to social impact assessment (SIA) for acquiring certain categories of land, both vital in national interest. The Opposition parties have also taken the battle outside Parliament: marching to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to submit a memorandum to the President on the Modi Government’s amendments to the 2013 Bill and urging him as the head of state to prevail upon the PM not to press for the adoption of the proposed legislation with those amendments; and holding protest demonstrations on the subject in the streets of the national Capital with representatives of people’s movements like Anna Hazare of India Against Corruption fame. The combative stance of the Opposition, notably the Congress, is of considerable significance. As the Modi dispensation completes 300 days of office, actions by its followers against the nation’s social harmony are also being underscored by the Opposition parties now that the initial bonhomie the ruling party, and Narendra Modi in particular, enjoyed with the people (mostly the middle classes) at large is on the wane with the Modi dispensation’s double-standards coming out in the open as never before. The latest attacks on the Christian community throughout the country has earned the Hindutvavadis (and their pillar of support, the present government at the Centre) universal condemnation across the spectrum. According to media reports, the PM has expressed concern over such incidents on the rise of late. This is reportedly reflected in the tweets from the PMO. But this has failed to elicit any largescale sympathy and support from the public in general. That is because he had expressed such sentiments in the past as well; but, as has been argued in these columns earlier, in the absence of concrete action against the so-called fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar, responsible for the creation of the environment which promotes such attacks, those sentiments have no meaning and are intended to just hoodwink the people. The recent attacks include the vandalisation of a Church in the BJP-ruled Haryana and the gangrape of a 72-year-old nun in West Bengal where the TMC is in power. The public revulsion against the gangrape was so intense that when the West Bengal CM went to visit the victim at Nadia district in the State her car was blocked by protesters for about an hour. Unfortunately instead of sharing the public’s sense of outrage, the CM spoke of a “CPM-BJP conspiracy” to malign her. This did not go down well with the citizens of the State as a whole. Several noted personalities belonging to the Christian community have spoken up without equivocation expressing resentment at the ruling establishment’s approach to such attacks. Among them is the former Director General of Police in Punjab, Julio Rebeiro. In a dignified response to these incidents, he observed: I sense a certain fear in people I meet from my community. The Christian community feels it is under siege. Modi was voted to bring in development for all, but all we heard was ‘ghar wapsi’, love Jihad and attacks on churches... If he wants, Modi can shut up the fringe in a minute, unless he fears he’ll lose their support.” What is more, he drew a contrast between the situation now and that prevailing under the BJP-led NDA Government of 1998-2004 when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the PM. In his view, such violent attacks and vitriolic statements against the Christian community were never made when Vajpayee was heading the Union Government. “This dangerous trand is creeping in now.” “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a welcome step by speaking out against such acts recently. I think he should now instruct the Chief Ministers of all BJP-ruled States to clamp down against such aggressors and take severe punitive action,” he added. Would the PM pay heed to such sane advice? There is no such possibility. Speaking out is one thing but taking action, and that too punitive action, quite a different matter. Why? Because the so-called fringe actually represents the majority in the Modi-led BJP and its government. That indeed is the grim reality the nation can ill-afford to ignore at a time when the public mood vis-a-vis Narendra Modi is undergoing a distinct change from hope to disillusionment. March 19 S.C.