The BJP has been in power for seven years now. At the Centre, Narendra Modi as Prime Minister remains invincible. In the states, however, challenges are rising. The regional leaders of the saffron party are increasingly realising that they cannot bank on the image of Prime Minister Modi till eternity, and that they too, as state leaders must have a significant portfolio to account for. That they must work hard to return to the electorate and ask for its continued support is a consensus which seems to be growing among BJP’s state units.
If seen with a keen eye, it is noticed that the BJP-ruled states are following an indistinguishable ideological pattern. This ideological thrust on issues like CAA-NRC, love jihad, overpopulation and forced conversions is being seen across BJP states. Most often, when one BJP-ruled state takes the onus on legislating on any one of these issues, many others follow suit. Therefore, a clear pattern is emerging, and the BJP is now looking to bring long-awaited societal changes in India, by using its power in various state governments.
These are all issues which can be legislated on by the Centre too. As a matter of fact, the Modi government bringing in laws to deal with these issues would indeed be much liked by the party’s supporters. Yet, the realisation seems to have dawned on state units that these socio-political issues may vary from one state to the other, and a uniform central legislation might meet many roadblocks. Hence, the state governments ruled by the BJP are taking the onus on themselves, and while on it, are boosting their own credentials.
With the exception of a nationwide NRC – which the Modi government is determined to bring in soon, BJP-ruled states are legislating on all other issues mentioned above. With NRC, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) led by Amit Shah would want to personally see that the process of identifying Indian citizens across the length and breadth of the country is impeccable and there are no loopholes in the exercise. The Modi government has learnt a lot from the NRC exercise of Assam which, let’s just say, had some glaring loopholes.
What cannot be ignored, however, is the fact that a nationwide NRC has emerged as a big ideological issue for the BJP, and the party is mentioning it during campaigns in states. Most notably, there were repeated promises by the BJP top brass to bring in NRC in West Bengal if they won.
Now, consider the issue of criminalising, and thereby curbing love jihad. What began last year as a legislation against religious conversions achieved by coercive and forced marriages in Uttar Pradesh was soon emulated by BJP states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. Assam has already made disclosure of religious beliefs by couples looking to marry mandatory, and soon, a full-fledged law against love jihad is about to be brought in. Deliberations for the same are also on in Haryana. In Uttarakhand, meanwhile, an anti-love jihad law has been in place for over two years now. Now, conversions by means of coercion, intimidation or by concealing facts during marriage are deemed punishable by law.
Mass conversions not involving marriage, meanwhile, are also inviting stringent action. In the recent conversion racket busted in Uttar Pradesh for instance, where children, women and those with special needs were forcefully converted to Islam, the Yogi Adityanath government booked the accused under the stringent National Security Act and Gangster Act.
The most recent trend being seen in BJP-ruled states is the rapidity with which the issues of overpopulation and population control are being addressed. The population control law, snatching certain incentives, privileges and benefits from those who after the concerned law is passed have more than two children is being emulated by state after state. First, the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP government of Assam decided to legislate on the matter. Then, Uttar Pradesh led by chief minister Yogi Adityanath decided to do the same, and now, reports suggest Karnataka too is keen to bring in a similar law to address the issue of overpopulation. Support for similar laws is also growing in Madhya Pradesh – another BJP ruled state.
The pattern is thus clear. The BJP is pushing for laws on these sensitive issues at the state level. Given India’s diversity and variance in issues from state to state, this is indeed a wise track to run on.