The loss of three states in the Hindi heartland appears to have set the alarm bells ringing for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). What is worrying for the saffron party is its core supporters have either appeared disenchanted or looked at the Congress party as an alternative as the grand old party toys with soft Hindutva. With just months left for the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has returned to address the concerns of its traditional vote bank. The 10 per cent quota for the upper castes and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill were a step in that direction.
Despite the token resistance by the non-NDA parties, most of the opposition parties supported the quota bill as they would not like to be seen scuttling it, and in the process lose votes. As the parliament passed the bill, the BJP has taken control of the political narrative saying that it delivered on its inclusive Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas slogan.
The party will use the passage of bill to mollify the upper caste Hindu voters, who were angry due to a number of reasons, the recent being the stringent SC/ST Act which they felt was often misused. The RSS, too, in its feedback to the party had hinted at annoyance of the core voters.
The BJP followed the passage of the bill with the appointment of brahmins and upper caste leaders in party posts in various states. J.P. Nadda was appointed in-charge of election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, and Gopal Bhargav the leader of opposition in Madhya Pradesh.
Similarly, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which caused a consternation in the northeastern states, particularly among the BJP's allies, is also aimed at addressing the core issues of the BJP. Assam Deputy Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had articulated the need for passing the bill saying if the bill was not passed, at least 17 seats in the state “will go the Jinnah way”.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill enables the non-Muslim migrants from three countries—Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan—to get Indian citizenship.
The government had also set up a high-level committee under retired bureaucrat M.P. Bezabaruah for providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the culture and heritage of Assam as mandated under the Assam Accord.
The BJP is aiming at cornering most of the seats in the northeast to compensate for any loss of seats in the Hindi heartland.
Most of the opposition parties have questioned the timings of both the bills saying these were done in haste and with an eye on elections. However, their muted response is dictated by poll considerations.
The jury is still out on how these bills will play out in the next few months. There are contradictions which could play out as it is happening in the case of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as BJP allies are opposing it. In the case of quota bill, some people point out that it would lead to anxiety among the dalits and OBCs, who may feel that economic criteria as basis of reservation was an attempt to tinker with the Constitution. The opposition parties will try to play on these concerns among the dalits and OBCs who got quota because of historical exploitation.