BJP’s poll mantra: Citizenship Bill in Delhi, NRC in Jharkhand

Poornima Joshi Ranchi | Updated on December 04, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seen along with Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda (left) and BJP Leader Karia Munda at a poll rally in Khunti district of Jharkhand, on Tuesday   -  PTI

NRC is the latest addition to Ram temple, Article 370 and 35A that form the highlights of BJP’s campaign

The ruling BJP’s eagerness to push the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament next week is supplemented by a commitment in poll-bound Jharkhand to bring the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to keep out the “Bangladeshi Ghuspaithias (infiltrators)”.

In its manifesto released last week, the BJP has promised to bring in NRC to curb infiltration in the districts bordering West Bengal. “There has been mass infiltration of Bangladeshi and others in the State. The eastern districts are very badly impacted. Our government will bring in NRC to curb this menace,” says the BJP manifesto on Page 45.

In the tribal-dominated Jharkhand, the BJP and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad have chiefly focused their attention on the work done by the Church and attacked their “conversion” focus. However, migration — especially in districts bordering West Bengal such as Pakur — has brought a fresh focus on Hindutva issues with the NRC becoming the latest talking point, besides Ram Mandir, Article 370 and surgical strikes in Pakistan that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have consistently invoked in the State.

Hindutva issues

Addressing a public rally in Mandar (Ranchi) on Wednesday, the BJP’s working President JP Nadda, too, invoked the same issues. “Pakistan used to create problems for India every day before May 2014. But the BJP Government led by PM Modi has given them a befitting reply through the surgical strikes. PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have also ended the prolonged ailment of Article 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir. Congress argued against Ram Mandir in the Supreme Court but the Modi government was committed to the expeditious settlement of the Ayodhya issue and very soon, a grand temple will be built for Bhagwan Shri Ram in his birthplace in Ayodhya,” said Nadda.

The ruling party’s single-minded focus on Hindutva issues has bewildered most in a State where agitations that followed the passage in November 2016 to two bills approved by the Legislative Assembly to amend the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act (CTA), 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT), 1949 that protect the tribals’ rights over their land impose stringent restrictions on acquisition and sale of tribal land, unemployment and local issues dominate the public discourse.

A tour across Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Khunti districts revealed that circumstances and issues impacting polls differ with each constituency, and Ram temple is definitely not a talking point among locals.

Local economy hit

According to Akash Shah, a supporter of the BJP-rebel Saryu Rai who is fighting against Chief Minister Raghubar Das in Jamshedpur(East), the issues in the constituency relate to regularisation of 86 illegal colonies, joblessness and closure of big companies such as Tata Hitachi and block closures being apprehended in Tata Motors.

“Jamshedpur is the industrial heart of India. The Chief Minister has represented this constituency since 1995. I too am a BJP worker but I will say this, this government has been bad for the youth and the workers. An industrial area like Adityapur has literally shut down. There is economic slowdown and they are talking of Ram temple,” Shah said. “This time, the CM will be defeated.” While economic slowdown is a major issue in Jamshedpur, in constituencies such as Khunti, it is land agitation and tribal unrest that are guiding voter behaviour. “Ram Mandir and Article 370 are hardly an issue here,” said a government official on condition of anonymity.

Opponents have accused the BJP of keeping the communal pot boiling as a “diversionary tactic”. According to Congress MP and spokesperson Manish Tiwari who was in Ranchi on Wednesday, NRC and related issues are typically used as diversions from real problems. “Jharkhand is reeling under mal-governance, malnutrition, starvation deaths and rampant corruption. Therefore, diversion through non-issues is their tactic,” said Tiwari.

Published on December 04, 2019

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