Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the silver jubilee celebration of National Human Right Commission, in New Delhi,
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Atul Yadav/PTI
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In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term, he went back on one of his first efforts. That first effort was to amend the land acquisition law for industries. That move is counted even today as a rare moment when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi managed to get the better of the Bharatiya Janata Party government. Gandhi had famously opposed the move calling Modi’s a “suit-boot sarkar” — a government working for the interests of corporate India and not the masses.

In his second term, Modi has already had two similar setbacks, but he has astutely managed the perception of both in such a way that they don’t look like setbacks. They don’t look like Modi ate humble pie. Looking weak or appearing to cower under pressure, that’s the last thing Modi wants to do.

Appearing for one of the petitioners in the farm laws case, senior advocate Harish Salve responded to the Supreme Court’s proposal to halt the implementation of the farm laws. He said the halt shouldn’t be seen as a “political victory”, and that the protesters shouldn’t feel they have “won this round”.

That’s an odd thing to say in a courtroom, but given the times we live in, we are not surprised to see people caring more about perception than reality. Salve seems to be less worried about the suspension of farm laws and more worried that doing so would be seen as a “victory” by India’s farmers. That means it would look like a loss of face for the government.

Let us not fall for this perception management. The reality is that the farm laws are not becoming a reality anytime soon. The government has now added to the Supreme Court’s order and said it is willing to suspend the implementation for 1.5 years.

The reason why this doesn’t look like a setback for the government is because the laws aren’t being repealed. They won’t be taken back. The government can say, politically, it did not surrender before the protesters’ demand of a complete repeal of the laws. Both sides can have a face-saver, though the farmers are playing tough even in this arrangement.

A face-saving exit is an exit nonetheless. The fact of the matter is that we are not going to see Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis disrupted by the new farm laws, and we are not going to see the arhatiyas being deprived of their commissions. If the government’s intent was to make the APMC mandis unviable overnight, or to privatise agricultural marketing overnight, it’s not happening. At least not in 2021. At least not till the Punjab assembly election in February-March 2022. And then the Lok Sabha election will be too close to light the fires again. This bird seems to be headed towards extinction, whether you call it Dragon Fruit or Kamalam is inconsequential.


Also read: Can India actually afford MSP for farmers? It’s a question of political will


What’s a vaccine got to do with CAA rules?

Similarly, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 has gone out of the political discourse. It’s very much a law. As is the law that needs the National Population Register (NPR) to be updated. Covid has halted not just the NPR but even the Census.

When protests against NRC-NPR-CAA “chronology” laws started in 2019, the government pretended it never had any intentions to carry out an all-India citizenship-verification exercise or the National Register of Citizens (NRC). So they went back on the NRC right away. But now they seem to have gone back on CAA as well, albeit in a way that doesn’t look like they have gone back on it. Like the farm laws, the CAA will remain a law. It won’t be, doesn’t have to be, removed from the statute books just because the government won’t release the rules to operationalise the law.

So, theoretically, the government can bring in the CAA rules any morning. The NPR-NRC-CAA chronology was supposed to be about the Assam and West Bengal elections, which are due in April. Results will be out in May.

Home minister Amit Shah said in December, “The rules of the CAA are yet to be framed as such a massive process could not be carried out because of the corona. As soon as (COVID) vaccination starts and corona cycle breaks, we will consider it.”

The CAA merely gives citizenship to some non-citizens. If something as massive as privatisation of agriculture can be done with ordinances and laws pushed through Parliament with a controversial voice vote despite the pandemic, it is strange that something as simple as CAA rules can’t be issued.

Even though the government and the BJP have completely stopped talking about NPR-NRC-CAA, activist groups in Assam are still protesting about it. Despite the riots that dissipated anti-CAA protests in East Delhi, it was only the Covid-19 pandemic that really ended the protests. If CAA rules were issued, it is unlikely that those who had apprehensions about the law will not have apprehensions anymore.

Most likely, the CAA is now history. It won’t be removed, but we won’t see the rules for some years. If the BJP wins Assam, it will for the moment have to forget all about the NRC and CAA. It will make noise about the NRC in Assam only till the elections.


Also read: Punjab farmers will vote for us in Feb polls because of the farm laws — BJP’s state in-charge


Protesting works

The big takeaway from both instances, of course, is that if there is one thing that works it is public protest. Parliament, opposition, media, judiciary — none of the institutions today act as a check and balance on unbridled executive power. This is why protest — peaceful protest — is so central to democracy, and this is why protesters are identified and slapped with so many cases under the most draconian of laws.

Shivam Vij is a contributing editor at ThePrint. Views are personal.

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30 Comments Share Your Views

30 COMMENTS

  1. When a Government takes a popular policy decision, the media and self-styled experts, who have the welfare of the Nation in mind [all others do not have the same feeling?]) reports it as a case of populism for votes to stay in power! When a policy decision attracts protests from a section of the Nation, the policy is bull dozing. When a Government follows its manifesto, it is majoritarianism and not a consensus decision.
    What exactly is democracy in India? How do we move forward with hundreds of political parties in fray in any election? Obviously, any party who can garner 30 odd percent of valid votes gets a majority to rule. If that is what we have chosen, so be it let the Government function. If we are forever protesting, rest assured we will make no progress.
    If we the people (represented through the media as well) do not change our attitude, it will be status quo and India will remain a laggard democracy.
    The media is doing its part to further the Nation’s cause either. It is either power hungry or avaricious.
    Tail piece: To protest is a right. But by exercising that right the cause does not become equally right.

    • Democracy does not mean that majority will crush minority with iron clad hands , if 20-25 percent people are extremely unhappy with something then that kind of laws should not be passed for political gains, government should just not preach sabka saath sabka vikas, it should also mean it, because actions speaks louder than words.

      Passing unconstitutional laws in parliament with simple majority is not enough, they has to be passed with 2/3rd majority.
      Supreme court is also being pressured henceforth they also keep postponing the judgement for eternity, when a court is not willing to scrap the unconstitutional laws, what options general public is left with, if they do not protest.

  2. Wow…aren’t you going a bit too far? George Orwell would be stirring in his grave to see the way you use his work to support the current “roll over everyone” government. You are completely confusing extreme left movements with left of centre liberalism, which is what Vij and the Print appear to stand for. You wlll find similar stances in outlets such as The Economist and NYT. Neither of these stands for communism or armed revolution, the way you imagine. On the contrary, your untempered language and extreme criticism make it seem that you yourself would have no problems with a dictatorship, as long as Modi is at the helm. Unchecked power is the real threat to democracy, not a bunch of people holding placards, or writing articles criticizing the government. I am sorry to say that you seem to be all in favour of such unchecked power.

  3. The last few lines capture the tragedy in full measure – even more than Shivam Vij himself realises. Anna Hazare and Kejriwal’s mindless agitation derailed governance and the economy in 2011 and enabled RSS and Modi to capture the government. Others have learnt their lessons – agitation will become common place and no work will get done. I repeat myself – Anna Hazare, naively, did great damage to India. It enabled the rise of incompetent people like Modi and frankly dangerous individuals like Yogi. Now the genie is out of the bottle. India will only get more ungovernable in the future.

    • This is BS. Let’s not pretend Anna Hazare caused Congress to lose the election. It was 10 years of scams and scandals that did it. That, and the fact that they tried to blame the 26/11 attack on Hindus to get the votes of the community that is always behind such attacks.

  4. No perceived set back is possible to a clean government. The gravity and magnitude of the set back becomes much more prominent on the back of a corrupt dispensation.
    Demonetization, Article 370 &35A, CAA were the major planned initiatives. Ram Mandir was not an achievement of this government it came from the court, surgical strike, Balakot and Chinese stand off though went in favour of the government were more of reactions.
    To expect Modi to push through everything and still be heading a democratically elected government is not possible, even if he has a brute majority.
    Just as ,he with stood the “Suite Boot Ki Sarkar” and “Choukidar Chor Hai” he will have to face up to some opposition and navigate his way through it.

  5. In any good democracy, media is always somewhat anti government. But in world’s largest democracy opposite is happening, media is baised and has pro government stance. This is not good at all for our country. Now the government is also trying to mum the social media which is a grave concern. People of India must revive their interest in democracy not in anarchy.

  6. It is question of far reaching effects of Laws and their aims.The constitution of India ,Hindu code bill ,land laws ,labour laws,and special marriage Act, were such important revolutions that India had undergone.It was not easy. Ultimately, these events brought
    assurance of free and fair life for all countrymen.
    While the pieces of present Government keep some different aim as basically the party philosophy was not in favour of major provisions of constitution. Favouring one religion ,one established situation created doubt in mind of masses. The action of Govt.to deal Kashmir was totally problematic i.e.arrestng leaders,suspending state Assemly, taking away statehood were incorrect steps on strength of majority in Parliament. See the Land gift Bhudan movement of Shree Vinobaji.It was not only mass movement but land owners particpated in .This historical movement stopped communism in India.It was unique.Present ruling party wants to make drastic changes as aggenda of the party taking advantage of majority in Parliament with fear that it won’t remain in future.This hurry has created instability in nation.
    Another trick adopted by Goverment is to involve people contineously in series of different situaton bringing new issues as shoks.It resulted in taking away real growth in economy of nation .Higher middle-class to street labourers became helpless. Small Enterprises are destroyed. Company law is amended more favourably. Constructin of Mandir made major issue to engeged people .present Government has never thought long-term prosperity plans.In democracy some or other parties are bound to come in power. It doesn’t mean that earier parties were anti nation and ruling one is only benevolent.
    Nation need serious and stable plan and laws not based on hate and pulling down oppositions at any cost.

  7. The so-called ‘secular’ press has always backed the anti-govt alliances of socialists and communists, in the name of secularism. When govt tries to initiate reforms which will help to expand the economy and create the much-needed jobs, they support the opposition groups who oppose every such move; then they complain that govt is not doing anything for the economy or uplifting the ‘poor’.

  8. BJP does not work like that, CAA is one of the pivotal ideological stance of the party that serves its very foundation. CAA was also desired by Mahatma Gandhi back in 1947. It will be implemented.

  9. One doth protest too much. The same leftist cabal comes down vociferously on anyone merely criticising their views, forget opposing.

    Has this hack heard of the phrase “vested interests”.

    In India you will continue to debate debate and debate as we watch the world go by. And then we wonder why our country is still such a shithole after 70 glorious years of democracy, with education, health and livelihood denied to hundreds of millions.

  10. I was neutral when farmer agitation started, as I do not understand agriculture & not even closely dependent on it for my income.

    But, when both sides are not ready to give an inch, I would side with the one who is more reasonable:

    Govt is offering to:

    1. Discuss the laws clause by clause
    2. Willing to tweak the laws
    3. Willing to suspend the laws

    Supreme Court has:

    1. Formed a panel of experts
    2. Ask farmers to talk to the panel

    Farmers on the other hand:

    1. Demanding nothing less than repeal of laws.
    2. Their lawyers do not even turn-up in Supreme Court

  11. lutyen leftist celebrate when genuine reforms are withdrawn as their goal is self welfare and NOT welfare of those who they claim to fight for. shame on them

  12. Don’t worry guys…there are many if Shivam vij typed who even celebrated American elections as if by Trump losing elections it is Modi’s loss. The Congress even said next.it will be Modi.

    Hatred for Modi has pushed these worthies in a corner which they seem to revel in. They will wait for a.few.mire years,.salivating at the thought that finally they will overcome what Modi represents.

    Their problem.is they would reject the people of India if they vote him in again. Give them the freedom to dream till reality jolts them again.

  13. Both these initiatives were quite unnecessary. By adamantly persisting on them can cause lot of negative perceptions. The perceived benefits by insisting to implement these laws are just an illusion. Government should have shown some flexibility and not made them a prestige issue. The solution to the Agri laws issue is very simple, if the government adopts it. The Centre should leave it to the states for implementation of the laws. If the the states do not want to implement and pass their own laws, let it be. There could be some states who like the laws; let them implement them and show improvement in farmers’ conditions. Similarly, government can grant citizenship to those who have suffered persecution in Pakistan even without the CAA. So, why this unwarranted insistence?

  14. For people who are deeply troubled / agitated about an issue / law / executive decision to be able to come out in sufficient numbers, protest peacefully, sometimes in inclement weather, to get such a powerful government to retract its decision is the ultimate validation of democracy. However, it would be much better if the political Opposition played its legitimate role of channelising public opinion, being part of the protests, in order that they remain orderly, with there being clear demarcation of who is in charge, can talk to the government, make compromises. There is always a seed of anarchy present in the unstructured protests that have taken place, first CAA, now farm laws. Maximum governance does not appear to be at work. Probably deft media management is providing a mask.

  15. Shri Shivam Vij’s hatred of Shri Narendra Modi should not blind him to the fact that our PM has the support of vast majority of our countrymen. Just check the latest India Today Mood of the Nation survey. Hence what he does has the support of majority. Shri Vij needs to do a reality check.

  16. The mechiavillian Strategm of Executive played in Covid time is challenged by farmers when SCI didn’t take Suo motto notice of illegality of these laws. SCI has surrendered , it failed to hear petition challenging constitutionality as well. Violation of State List under 7 schedule of Constitution Federal govt is Not Allowed to make laws on Agriculture. Not even in Concurrent List. Anarchy is thrust upon by arrogantNDA govt.

  17. All- knowing Contributing Editor to ThPrint Mr. Vij should know and keep in mind that in any war strategy — a planned RETREAT – is not termed as defeat . D. Day comes for the army that retreats sooner than expected . So do not declare defeat of Mr.Modi and victory of anti- Modi leftists who are using farmers as their mercenary foot solders. I am using vocabulary used at war times because like most of common citizens I equate the amassing of rich farmers of Punjab on the borders of NCT of Delhi as a “Seize by forces ” commanded by the enemies of the Indian nation. And those who are supporting them overtly , covertly or by propaganda writings can not be called ……………… yes,, Friends of India.
    If this so-called agitation was due to present or future ill- percieved distress , the agitating persons/ groups should have spelt the infirmities in alleged legislation to the Government in meetings held so far or should have appeared before the committee of the Agriculture Experts formed by the Supreme Court of India .WHICH IMPROVEMENTS HAVE BEEN SUGGESTED BY THE AGITATING FARMER LEADER TILL DATE ??? It is purely a political battle started by the forces politically opposed to Mr. Modi. Whether those opposing Modi would succeed or not , should be clear to them after seeing the Mood of Nation survey broadcast by Aaj tak ON 21.01.2021.

  18. Shivam, just asking, tomorrow a law is made which has your full backing and a small group of people create anarchy on the ground and prevent its implementation, what will you say, democracy’ won ?
    By backing such protests, you are allowing your hate for Modi to jaundice your judgement.

    • Shivam Vij has no judgement. To have a judgement one needs to be logical, analytical and non partisan. He is incapable of that, blinded by hatred which was indoctrinated in him. Just note the disdain that he has towards parliament & judiciary (last paragraph). He just stops short of calling an armed naxali revolt against the state (for now). Mark my words, these are the people who will provoke and march fanatics armed with weapons and filled with hate and fanaticism towards our parliament, courts, election commission and other constitutional bodies. The ideology that they follow is the most violent and brutal ideology this world has seen. Democracy is just a temporary means for these people, to finally subvert democracy itself, and establish a dictatorship known as communism. If you have not read Animal Farm, do read it. Its a book that all those morons who support these people like Yogendra Yadav, Jholachaap Ravish, NDTV staff, Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan etc must read! Let me tell You, these people are working towards creating such anarchy in this country that would make what happened at capitol hill seem like a picnic. They know they are finished electorally, this is how they want to destabilize democracy now.

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