The masterstroke in Modi’s unity agenda: Letter to PM on communal violence prevention bill

Modi’s letter was not only a timely attack on the UPA government and its policies, it was a scathing attack on its leadership too. The letter only furthers Modi’s unity agenda which makes him more acceptable as a leader.

Bhartiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi started correcting his ‘divisive’ image in the eyes of people and politicians – India or abroad – through his ‘sadbhavana’ fast in September 2011. This was his first step towards his prime ministerial aspirations.

Since then, he has been time and again speaking about ‘unity’ and taking extra efforts to make his understand popular mindset on it. Not only that, he has been using each and every possible medium to gradually spread his messages among people.

Many people used to see the BJP as a high-caste party from the Hindi heartland. Modi is not only of a lower caste, but uses language effectively wherever he goes. You can get his Twitter feed in various regional languages. A lot of Modi critics bemoan his lack of English speaking skills but what they don’t realize is that regional languages are much bigger unifiers across India than English can ever hope to be.

He uses neutral icons like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. Recently he reaffirmed his ‘unity’ stand by erecting a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel which saw a major tiff from the Congress party. This subtle use of neutral icons has greatly helped Modi gain widespread acceptance.

He uses cyberspace to his advantage and thrives on popular support due to his development and better economy stances. The anti-corruption drive that he has in his state has also helped enhance his great administrator image.

Modi’s ‘One India’ slogan has already converted into a project. His speeches start with ‘Vande Mataram’, “Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ends with them. Projecting himself as a nationalist is the biggest unifying factor which will deliver him votes too.

Despite that fact that he was given a clean chit in Gujarat riots case by the court, it is still difficult for him to garner support across communities. But this time Modi played a master stroke – a letter to the prime minister over communal violence prevention bill.

By writing a letter to the PM dealing with the nuances of the bill, Modi showed his commitment to the issue and whirled good publicity for himself at the same time.

The timing of the bill worked to his advantage when various exit polls showed BJP sweeping the assembly seats in four out of five polling states. The Congress party was already on defensive and demoralized. With Modi sharing the details of his letter through a string of tweets, the government was forced to acknowledge his presence and demands.

Modi’s concerns that “the Government of India is contemplating a hurried introduction of the Bill in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament,” has already put the government on backfoot. All for the reason that it was the same manner in which the government had introduced the food security bill in monsoon session of the parliament. And when the bill saw no daylight due to BJP’s adamant positions, it took the ordinance route.

He not only focused to the points which indicated that the Congress was making a mistake through this bill which will create a so called ‘secular-communal’ divide, along with his party he sent a message, particularly to the Muslim community, that they care for them so much, that they are even willing to write the provisions in such a way that it is heavily loaded against members of the majority community.

Modi blasted the UPA government on its “timing” in attempting to bring the bill. “Coming just a couple of months before the expected announcement of the next General Elections, it makes the move look very suspicious. It is almost a giveaway that the move to introduce the Bill is based on political considerations dictated by vote bank politics rather than genuine concern for preventing communal violence”, he wrote.

Modi’s aggressiveness coupled with very strong objections by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha only worsened the situation for the UPA. The problem for the government is that even the Samajwadi Party, which supports the UPA government from outside and has strong secularist credentials, is opposed to the bill, albeit on grounds that it encroaches upon the federal structure of Indian polity. The Biju Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress are objecting on the same grounds.

Also, Modi took the opportunity of lambasting Sonia Gandhi’s pet National Advisory Committee (NAC). Without eve naming her, Modi attacked her like never before. He wrote in the letter, “…However, knowing its genesis, I am not surprised by the poor drafting of this bill. You will kindly recall that in the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security in Delhi in May earlier this year, I had brought to your notice how certain individuals with questionable credentials and condemnable links with anti-national elements have penetrated into our policy making think tanks like the Planning Commission and the National Advisory Council, NAC. It is the same NAC, an extra-constitutional authority and the same set of individuals who seem to have now usurped the law-making powers because of the void created at the political level that are behind this draft.”

“A plain reading of the bill suggests that it is not confined to communal violence on religious lines and includes other considerations like linguistic identity. This expansion of scope may lead to serious issues of operationalizing the provisions.…..In view of all of the above observations, I would like to express my government’s strong opposition to this ill-conceived and poorly drafted Bill. I would also like to convey my government’s strong reservation against this attempt to encroach upon the authority of the state governments. I sincerely request you to direct the Home Ministry to have a wider consultation with the State Governments, political parties and the police and security agencies before proceeding further”, Modi added in his letter.

The uneasiness that has rippled Congress, with the exit poll results out and final result only two days away, has only increased due to Modi’s attack on Sonia and government. While it tends to lose more support, Modi basks in the warmth of his soaring popularity.

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