The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi fought the 2014 General Elections with the promise of ‘ache din’ and the dissemination of the ‘Gujarat Model’ across the country. Clearly, the ‘Gujarat Model’ has found no space in the 2019 General Elections neither from the BJP nor from the PM Modi. The disappearance of this has been filled up by the politics around ‘national security’. Let us have a brief on how Modi has continued the politics of national security of the former PM Atal Vihari Vajpayee.
The unfortunate incident in Pulwama district of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) that killed 40 CRPF personnel by the Pakistan based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed gave an opportunity for the government under Mr. Modi to organize airstrikes at Balakot claiming to have destroyed terrorist camps and killed several terrorists. Since then the incumbent government has been marketing the Balakot airstrike to garner votes for the upcoming elections.
In 1998, when Vajpayee government conducted the nuclear tests, it gave a very strong reason to the United States by stating that the nuclearization happened considering the deteriorating security environment largely due to the activities of China and Pakistan. In fact, it has been recorded by media that Vajpayee’s letter mentioned 68 words highlighting Chinese threat to India and 48 words to Pakistani threat to India. In the months following the nuclear tests, Beijing through many publications including Renmin Ribao and Beijing Review condemned New Delhi’s reasoning. The response from Beijing was that ‘neither China nor India constituted a threat to the other, and any assertions to the contrary were false and malicious in intent’.
The 1998 test has been looked upon as a test to stimulate Hindu Nationalist passion thus diverting internal contradictions and attention in order to strengthen the weak position of the then NDA government under Mr. Vajpayee. The second term of Vajpayee was uneasy with problems arising from the coalition. It was not a stable government and some way or the other the dissatisfaction of the masses needed to be diverted.
Another comparison can be made through extraordinary laws. The Prevention of Terrorist Act (POTA), 2002 was passed hastily after the government moved an ordinance following the Parliament Attack in 2001 and Global War on Terrorism. The Vajpayee government felt the need to securitize the country to face the various security challenges arising from both external and internal sources. But it has been examined by the National Human Rights Commission and other activists that the law was widely misused to target religious minorities (e.g Godhra Riot), to put political opponents behind the bar and to shut the dissenters.
Likewise, although POTA has been repealed, the current government has utilized another extraordinary law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 2004 to maintain its hegemony. One clear example is of the arrest made in the context of caste-based violence in the Bhima Koregaon town of Maharashtra. The state police have shifted the focus of its investigation from Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide to a group of five social activists working with Dalits, Adivasis and political prisoners. In another incident, a journalist from Manipur was jailed for 12 months under the National Security Act, 1980 for criticizing state and Central governments. The extraordinary laws have so far done less good and have antagonized the public largely to serve the interest of the state.
In another example of concurrence, Article 370 which provides autonomous status to the state of J&K has been considered as a security challenge by the BJP. In 2000, the Vajpayee cabinet had rejected an autonomy resolution passed by the J&K assembly when Farooq Abdullah was the chief minister. It was also said by one of the BJP National Spokespersons that Article 370 would have been scrapped if Vajpayee government had the majority. Likewise, the party manifesto of the BJP has outlined that if Modi comes back to power, Article 370 will be removed. Whether Article 370 has deprived the people of J&K of developmental activities or not, Article 370 has been very close to the hearts of the people and to the politics of J&K. Total abrogation of the article will only escalate more problems.