In what clearly comes as a shot in the arm for the Modi government right at the start of its second tenure, Amit Shah’s two bills on Kashmir have been successfully passed in the Rajya Sabha. Contrary to expectations, the two bills on Kashmir even as principal opposition parties, Congress, Trinamool Congress, and the Samajwadi Party aided the current dispensation in passing the two bills. The smooth sailing of the bills through Rajya Sabha is a major victory for Amit Shah as this was the first legislative agenda of Amit Shah as the Union Home Minister.
The upper house of the Parliament went through a marathon six-hour debate, after which the Rajya Sabha passed the bill approving President’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir for a period of six months. The Rajya Sabha also passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Other parties which supported the bill included Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Janta Dal United (JDU), and Biju Janta Dal (BJD). Those who opposed the Bill included Left, PDP, and DMK.
While introducing the Bills, the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah said, “Government will win the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” The Home Minister also said, “If Kashmir issue has continued from 1947 to 2019 then we need to view it with a different eye, different mindset (naya nazariya aur nayi soch).”
The way opposition had started on an aggressive note had given rise to apprehensions that the opposition might be trying to find ways to oppose the bill. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress MP, for example, had said, “We controlled terrorism. We got it to a freezing point. Terrorism was nearly over but what is the reason that the maximum number of Armymen were killed since 2014. Maximum civilians have been killed. Sixteen security installations have been hit in the Modi government regime. If there is zero tolerance, how is it that such targets are hit. Even in 1993, the situation did not come to this. Why can’t you save army installation this is not symbol of zero tolerance of terrorism. Biggest casualty of civil, security men is not zero tolerance of terror.”
There was also a heated debate about why Lok Sabha polls and Assembly polls were not held simultaneously in Jammu & Kashmir. To this, Amit Shah replied, “I want to tell my fellow lawmakers, the number of seats in Lok Sabha is 6 and as a result, candidates are less. For assembly, we need to give protection to at least a thousand candidates. Circumstances in the state are not so conducive that security arrangements could have been made for each candidate who is campaigning in the villages, towns, and districts of the state. The decision to not hold elections was based on the assessment of security forces.”
However, the manner in which the two crucial bills have been passed surely comes as a welcome sign for the Modi government. The BJP lacks a majority in the Rajya Sabha. However, the supposed unity of the opposition was nowhere to be seen. The opposition, if it gets united, can enjoy a position of strength in the upper house by blocking bills tabled by the government. However, the opposition parties have clearly failed to come together on certain crucial issues. They clearly have different stands and this sets up the entire scenario nicely for the Modi government even as it would look for the introduction of more such legislative instruments in the future as well.