The nation witnessed protests over the issue of the CAA passed by the parliament. The protests that started from the Jamia Millia Islamia university spread far and wide involving students, academicians, civil society activists, and people from other spheres of human activities.
Newspaper columnists and political pundits are terming the protests as organic and spontaneous. Some have gone to the extent of even comparing these anti-CAA protests with the protests against Indira Gandhi regime in the 70s by students during the JP movement.
Political parties that initially supported the bill inside and outside the parliament developed cold feet later on. Either they have gauged public opinion or as the protests gathered storm have different political calculations in their mind.
The public posturing of some NDA allies namely Janata Dal (U) in Bihar and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) in Punjab is somewhat peculiar but not difficult to understand given their political base and politics.
Leaving other regions and parties aside let us focus on Punjab and its politics in the context of the politics being played over the CAA.
Punjab is a Sikh majority state. Sikhs are in majority in Punjab but in the context of India as a whole, the Sikhs are a religious minority. The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is the major political force in Punjab politics with political footprints in every nook and corner of the state. The SAD (Badal) has its major base in Sikh community especially rural-Sikh-farmers.
SAD since the Punjabi Suba Movement has played the minority ‘victimhood’ card successfully and enjoyed power in this border state.
Politically the SAD (Badal) has enjoyed an envious position in the panthak circles- a position that has been envied by others who also have a stake and interest the panthak issues and politics being played over it.
SAD (Badal) sustained its clout on ‘Panthak votes’ by continuously winning SGPC elections and also capturing power in the state and at the centre by aligning with the hindu right wing party-the BJP.
The Grand Old Man of the SAD (Badal) Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had been successful in keeping this envious position intact and kept all the other panthak stakeholders at fringe.
But at present Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is passing through the severest political crisis since its inception. The crisis culminated when in the 2017 assembly elections, SAD (Badal) even failed to clinch the role of the principal opposition party in the state assembly.
SAD (Badal) was facing the political pressure due to sacrilege incidents occurred during its regime. But even after the elections, Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report further dented its image vis-a-vis panthak party.
Now when the SAD (Badal) is being politically pushed against the wall by its political opponents, here comes the CAA. There is nothing in the CAA that can be said to be anti minorities or Sikhs.
Instead it accommodates Sikhs who came from Pakistan, Afganistan and Bangladesh fearing religious persecution in those countries. But a narrative has been set by some intelligentsia and political parties that the said act is anti minorities as the act excludes Muslims from these countries from the process of naturalization.
Also when CAA is read in conjunction with NRC and also the repercussions faced during its implementation in the Assam state there are certain apprehensions in the minds of citizens of the country especially Muslims-which is a minority community.
The CAA, NPR, NRC or NRIC initiated or to be initiated by the Modi government are being seen, rightly or wrongly, as a part of the Hindu Rashtra agenda being pursued by the RSS and organisation affiliated to it.
The Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh has already stated that the CAA or NRC will not be implemented in Punjab. The Punjab Congress has demonstrated against the CAA with the whole Punjab cabinet including the Chief Minister participating in it.
Amarinder Singh has already been politically successful in carving a niche for the Congress party in the Sikh psych. On the contrary, SAD’s alliance partner BJP is seen or painted as a party against minority sentiments.
In this context SAD (Badal) has little political choice vis-a-vis CAA. Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) can ill afford to be seen as a part of the Hindu Rashtra agenda-if there is any-of the BJP-RSS.
On the contrary to keep its support base in the minority Sikh community SAD (Badal) has to be seen as the guardian of the minority rights and privileges which the Modi govt is accused of breaching. The voting pattern and behaviour of the Sikhs in the recently held general elections indicated that the Sikhs are apprehensive of the BJP-RSS.
Secondly, before the general elections, riding on its leader Narendra Modi’s popularity, BJP won elections after elections and formed governments in many states. Since then there is a section of the BJP’s cadre in Punjab that desire and aspire to go solo in the next assembly election to be held in 2022.
The other tactic being employed by the BJP is to demand and pressurise SAD (Badal) for a bigger pie from the seat sharing arrangement that the SAD-BJP alliance is following since 2002, i.e. contesting 23 out of 117 seats and the remaining the SAD.
Now when nationally the BJP is on defensive mode, SAD has a chance to reassert itself inside the alliance.
So we can see some more hiccups in the BJP-SAD (Badal) combine before the assembly elections.
It will be curious to watch how SAD balances its guardian of the Sikhs rights and privileges status and its alliance with the hindu right wing party.
Congress party will advocate more aggressively for the minority rights while maintaining or seem to be maintaining its ‘secular’ outlook.
Disclaimer : The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the writer/author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Babushahi.com or Tirchhi Nazar Media. Babushahi.com or Tirchhi Nazar Media does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.