Controversies surround new cabinet ministers’ educational qualifications. Both the HRD minister and the minister for rural development have allegedly given wrong information in the voluntary affidavits while filing nominations. Much before many so-called mature western democracies, the Indian Republic, since its birth, gave universal suffrage irrespective of caste, creed, sex, educational or property qualifications, etc, adopting the principle of ‘one person, one vote’; ‘one vote, one value’. The question here, therefore, is not of levels of educational competence. The question is of stating untruths. Such alleged ‘deception’ does not augur well for ‘good governance’. Worse, there are media reports that five Delhi University officials were suspended for ‘giving true information’ regarding the minister’s degree. Notwithstanding feeble attempts at official denial, this is atrocious and unacceptable in this age of RTI.
Such stumbling at the start of a five-year race by this government on its declared intentions is accompanied by a flurry of activity relating to its undeclared, yet constituting the strongest undercurrent of its electoral victory — sharpening of communal polarisation.
One of the main persons indicted in several instances of Hindutva organisations-sponsored terrorist attacks (Samjhauta Express, Malegaon, Ajmer Dargah, Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blasts, etc), RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar has called for the withdrawal of all such cases being pursued by the CBI, the NIA and the ATS that have, so far, arrested various leaders of the Hindutva outfits. "The election results have come as a second freedom", he said.
Soon after assuming office, the new minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, declared that this government is open to a review of Article 370 of the Constitution. Recall that it is on the basis of this Article that the state of Jammu & Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union at the time of our Independence and Partition of our country. The BJP claimed that it could not repeal this Article during the period of the Vajpayee government due to a lack of majority. The 2014 BJP manifesto had said that it "remains committed to the abrogation of this Article".
Soon followed the Union agricultural minister, who sought a debate on the imposition of a uniform civil code (UCC). He thus clearly confirms the insincerity of the prime minister’s pre-election utterances on this score. The RSS/BJP had all along maintained that the issues constituting its core Hindutva agenda are the building of the Ram mandir on the disputed site of Ayodhya; imposition of a UCC and the abrogation of Article 370.
Comments by the newly sworn-in ministers concerning reservations for religious minorities suggest efforts at sharpening polarisation. Minister for social justice Thawar Chand Gehlot told the media that the BJP government was opposed to the 4.5% sub-quota for minorities because reservation based on religion was "unconstitutional". Minister for minority affairs Najma Heptulla also said she was opposed to minority reservation because quotas killed the "spirit of competition". She went further to say that Muslims were not minorities because they constitute a large number and, instead, Parsis with their dwindling population qualified for ‘the tag’. She appeared determined to re-orient the ministry by playing down its role in the welfare of Muslims and dismissing the policies espoused by the previous UPA government. "Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers do not diminish", she said.
Following the Justice Sachar Committee report on the economic and social status of the Muslims, which showed on many parameters, their living conditions were miserable, the UPA government had appointed the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission to suggest measures to improve the situation. Upon the recommendation of carving out a quota within the 27% OBC reservations for religious minorities, categorised as part of the OBC list, the UPA government, in December 2011, carved out a sub quota of 4.5%.
The new minister for minority affairs needs to be told that attention to the Muslims as minorities was never considered in terms of their physical numbers but on the basis of their economic and social status. On these parameters, it is very cruel to draw comparisons of the Muslim minority with other minorities like the Parsis.
While the core Hindutva agenda is finding its reflection in matters of government policy, it is of grave concern that the RSS/BJP’s agenda is also raising its ugly head in terms of sharpening communal polarisation amongst people in various parts of the country. Media reports show that various Hindutva groups organised a protest in Mangalore, Karnataka, a day before the Modi government was sworn in, demanding the imposition of a ban on the Azaan – call for prayer or namaz. In various parts of Karnataka and Gujarat communal tensions were heightened through clashes since the declaration of the results.
The initial signals coming out from this government — sharpening of communal polarisation, on the one hand, and the imposition of further burdens on the people — are, indeed, ominous.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal