Thursday, 29 September, 2022
HomeOpinionThe method in the madness of ‘jhatka’ policymaking

The method in the madness of ‘jhatka’ policymaking

‘Jhatka’ policymaking is designed to upend the existing social contract, create a new one.

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Travelling in Bihar during the state’s assembly election in 2015, I met a man who was a government official by day and an OBC rights activist by night. For him, Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar, fighting that election together, were not good enough. They had betrayed Mandal politics to win elections and power. Activists like him are the soil of Indian democracy. They keep alive the spirit of debate and dissent when their elected representatives sell themselves for power.

I asked him what he thought of Narendra Modi and the BJP, which had only been in power for a little over a year at the time. His reply was unforgettable, and it resonates every time the Modi government sparks a new protest, creates a new problem, represses another section of society.

The Mandal-ite activist said, “The Congress party has the habit of keeping social tensions below the surface, often pushing them under the carpet. The BJP likes to open up these tensions, make them play out.”

In December 1885, the Indian National Congress (INC) was founded on the initiative of a retired British civil servant, Allan Octavian Hume. Hume proposed the INC be a “safety valve” for the British Raj in becoming an outlet of Indian grievances. For people like the Mandal-ite activist I met in Patna in 2015, the Congress was still a mere ‘safety valve’, preventing the sort of caste revolution that a non-Congress government sparked with the Mandal Commission.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, is waging a revolution of sorts in upending India’s social contract to create a new one. Often to create something new, you have to destroy something existing. The secular State has to be demolished to establish a Hindu Rashtra. The Socialist consensus has to be broken to further crony capitalism. The fragile peace of India’s borderlands has to be disturbed to alter the nature of the Indian State. Modi isn’t here to carry on the Congress consensus but to replace it. No pain, no gain.

Hindu nationalism sees itself as thriving in the creation of fault lines. It is in rupture that the space for Hindutva is created.

Also read: Modi govt must sweat in Parliament to avoid bleeding on street. Farmers’ protest shows why

The Jhatka way

This deliberate effort at ‘creative’ destruction is what we see in play in the government’s sudden, unilateral policymaking imposed on the nation without consultation, leave alone consensus. Raghuram Rajan, the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, has described it as ‘jhatka’ policymaking. (The BJP’s supporters won’t object to the term since they are opposed to the halal way of butchering animals.)

It is, therefore, not absent-mindedness that the government most likely did not consult farmers before enacting laws with far-reaching consequences for Indian agriculture. They were introduced as ordinances before being pushed through Parliament. Debate and discussion, dissent and consensus are not required. Ordinance Raj is key to jhatka policymaking. The legislature a mere rubber stamp. Once the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are forced to accept them, the parliamentary rubber stamp can be put on them.

When these ordinances are sprung out of the blue, the government knows there will be protest and resistance from the farmers of Punjab and Haryana who have benefitted from the minimum support price (MSP) system. Bring it on, the government seems to suggest. They’re blocking train tracks? Never mind, stop the trains. Let’s see how they manage.

There is a standard operating procedure at work here. Let people cry foul. Discredit them as anti-national or terrorists. Blame the naysaying on the Congress and dirty politics. Scare the naysayers with police and paramilitary, the CBI and the ED. Sooner than later, people will accept it. What good is a brute parliamentary majority if it doesn’t let you ride roughshod on all kinds of minorities?

In Punjab and Assam, those Congress-closed conflicts did its safety valve thing. In both places, we have seen the BJP not being afraid to open up old wounds. It doesn’t mind the word ‘Khalistan’ being bandied about to discredit farmers who are merely fearing for their livelihoods. Conflict is good, it lets you create ‘the other’ out of those who won’t be willing participants in the Hindu Rashtra project. Let people protest, let there be violence, they will all be labelled terrorists.

Also read: Farmers’ protest a big challenge for Modi. Bigger than demonetisation, GST

No safety valve required

It is quite remarkable that the Modi government has agreed to talk to protesting farmers, even bringing forward their own date for doing so by a few days. What magnanimity! This is unprecedented because the Modi government has so far refused to pro-actively engage in dialogue with any social groups protesting on the streets. In 2018, farmers from Tamil Nadu protested in Delhi with skulls of their colleagues who had committed suicide, but the government did not reach out to them.

The Congress way would have been to hold talks, form a committee, buy a few weeks, make promises and keep the easy ones, and postpone the matter until time healed the wounds. Persuade, cajole, give some concessions but not enough, end the matter.

The Modi government gave a major concession to farmers — the PM-KISAN scheme just before the 2019 Lok Sabha election — but only when it lost the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly elections to the Congress because of farm distress in December 2018. The only exception the BJP makes against its own convictions is when it sees itself losing elections.

That leaves out a whole chunk of people who the BJP does not need to win elections. After all, its 303 seats came from a 37 per cent vote share. The rest are probably the Sikhs of Punjab, the Bengali Muslims of Assam, the Muslims of Hindi heartland, the Dalit students of Hyderabad, the Leftists students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Kashmiris up north.

India’s citizenship laws, its penal code, its agricultural structure, its tax regime, its monetary policy, its constitutional relationship with Jammu & Kashmir — there is absolutely nothing that can’t be changed in a jhatka.

It is as if the BJP wants to test people’s ability to protest and resist the might of the State. In any normal circumstance, any normal government would see this as being very risky, not to say detrimental to peace, harmony and national interest. You’d think no government would want to take ‘panga‘ with its own people. But this is not the Congress. It doesn’t want that safety valve. It wants to remove the safety valve and see what happens, almost as if out of curiosity.

The author is a contributing editor. Views are personal.

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  1. There is proveb : Slight sound of lash for race horse but stick to donkey. SECULARISTS DO NEED JHATKA.. Even then they behave like stubborn mule.

  2. Corona has altered the ‘social contract ‘ already. Doubts arise when ‘extraordinary’ concerns are expressed publicly from foreign lands in relation to farmers bill.

  3. “Shoe I am “you STUPIDO.

    Let the “FAMILY ” that is corrupt and allied with proselytizers, come up TRULY DEMOCRATIC SECULAR policies of reduction in population. Through strict POPULATION CONTROL MEASURES and teaching of real Indian history and scientific education for all
    I guarantee you they will get the votes of HINDUS again.

    AND instead of eating month old stale PIZZA from the
    ” FAMILY ” fridge , you might actually get to enjoy freshly cooked DAL TADKA N RICE.

  4. It is Modi’s Way or The High Way. He will steam roll or road roll whatever he wants. The late Arun Jaitley showed the way to bypass the Rajya Sabha and the Ordinance way. If you don’t agree to Modi U are Antinational or Khalistani or Terrorist or Urban Naxal.
    Picture abhi baaki hai. Wait for the next elections, and once he gets 2/3rd majority, you can easily guess what is going to happen. It is a final warning to the opposition, unless you unite before the next elections you all will perish. It will be like one party rule like china.

  5. Jhatka is what Left cabal is receiving in their shrinking political space to the point of non existence. Recent Bihar elections seem to have given them false hope. Let them wallow in it while our jawans are doing to their Naxalites what we voters are doing to their political naxals.

    Dear Shekhar Gupta, your continuing support of space provided to these kinds of elements has only made me apathetic to your call for support for independent journalism. Independent journalism is no proxy for quality journalism. Readers will pay when journalism has both quality and independence. Sadly your platform is lacking in one of these. Sadly, because I had great hopes from The Print.

  6. Farmers from a state that sends one of the most soldiers to the indian army are being branded anti national .in theory no one is safe and you are only safe as long as your interests align with this governments .

  7. In other words, Bjp solves problems. Ignoring the obvious leftist propaganda in the article, what the author wants to say is that bjp wants to solve problems where as congress wants to push them under the carpet. While solving the problems, opposition obviously emerges. Like ram Mandir issue which is resolved, art 370 which is resolved, terrorism issue which is resolved, bjp resolves issues, and for resolving issues you need to open the wounds first. Congress sweeps them under the rug.

  8. Shivam Vij, when will you grow and start writing objectively. Once you wrote that BJP would have won MP and Rajasthan in 2018 had it given tickets to Muslims as though Muslims would have flocked to BJP and voted just bcoz it had fielded a few Muslim candidate s. What a laughable claim.

  9. All tensions were present as the author himself agrees in Congress times. Better to get them out in the open.
    You lance an infection before it becomes gangrene.

  10. Great article. It will make country more ignorant. Ow extending up to role of congress in delaying independence and AO Hume’s tactical masterpiece of fooling the country by giving us a lemon called Congress.

    By the way, the Indira Congress of today is not even that useful as a safety valve. …

  11. What you call JHATKA POLICY it is called DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION. TO fix the decades o CONregressi and REgressive Leftist Jhadist appeasement rot, it eeds MASSIVE DRASTIC ACTION such as in JK. BJP and Namo are on the right path. They have out TRUST, absolutely parliamentary majority, this is a way of CONSENSUS that they are implementing policies we want them to. ENough appeasement of TukdeTUkdeGangs of types of REgressive Jihadist leftists like Shivan Vij eating malai. I understand SHivam’s paoin at loss of privilege he had during Leftist CONgressi govt which have been taken away from these DeshDrohis by the nationalist BJP govt. Itna jalega toh jal jal ke Jal ke mar jayega ya phir TV pe heart attack se maar jayega..

  12. SHivam Vij is extremely predictable in his hatred for BJP and HIndu Rashtra. He is so obsessed with opoosing HIndu Rashtra and HInduism, he finds ways to every issue under the sun with the HIndu Rashtra. he seems to have some psychological issues for which he needs a shrink. Shame on Shekhar Gupta to let these loonies lose on unsuspecting readers. When you read an article from Shivam Vij, you can be assured it will be absolutely trash. MostlYy I ignore his articles, I do not always read thePrint but sometimes I do only to know what the ENEMIES are writing and thinking so we can netralise the enemies politically, socially, financially so as to take away their misleading influence. I agree with the comments of previous commentator “pseudosickular”

  13. In Yes Minister, Sir Humphrey Appleby informs the Minister that the only function of the govt is to see that there are no riots tomorrow.

  14. How can the writer write so much hate? what I see is writer single point of agenda of making some section of society to increase their hate on BJP.. nothing else. So sad Print is doing this.

  15. Once again the author demonstrates that he lives in a la la land when he places congress opposite crony capitalism. Has he even read the Maruti case

  16. to hell with congress safety value…country doesn’t run on forming committee’s or forming group of ministers for resolving issues…these are all tactics to for finding excuses for laziness for which congress is know for…..India wanted strong govt and it got one…only farmers from 1 state are protesting and that too from congress ruled we know the politics involved.

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