So this 2010 release from PIB came to my notice yesterday.
The year is 2010. This is Dr. Singh’s government deciding to grant exemption from the Passport Act to certain groups of Pakistani nationals residing in India.
Which groups? The release is very clear: minority communities in Pakistan (Hindus and Sikhs).
Does anybody remember this event when it happened in 2010? Did anybody start jumping up and down claiming this was against idea of India? Of course not. Because it was a routine government decision, written in routine legal language. In India, the government routinely grants special privileges to specific groups seen as disadvantaged in some way : women, backward castes, tribals, physically challenged, religious minorities, etc. Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan fit the requirements perfectly. This has never been seen as a violation of the Constitution. Instead, this is seen as the heart of the Constitution.
So why did CAA become such an issue in 2019-20?
Look at the 2010 release carefully. It only grants Long Term Visas and says nothing about citizenship. In other words, it is a half measure, leaving the affected people essentially in limbo. Are those people supposed to live their entire lives on long term visas?
The difference is that Modi government actually went ahead and finished the task, providing a clear pathway to citizenship. They got stuff done, which the weak willed Congress was too scared to actually do! That’s what caught the attention of Hinduphobes in India and all around the world.
You can see the same pattern in almost anything that has happened since 2014. Some version of some idea has been floating around for a while. Congress has thought about it, wasted taxpayer’s money and time discussing versions of it. But the task was not completed. Maybe half of it was done and the remaining half left suspended in the air.
Look at the NRC. It was Rajiv Gandhi who promised NRC in Assam all the way back in 1985. If he had actually done it in 1985, we wouldn’t have all these problems in the North East in the first place. But from 1985 till 2015, *zero* progress was made. Thirty full years and nothing was done!
Then BJP came to power in Assam in 2016 and that’s when the exercise actually began. Decades have passed, it has become harder to identify non-citizens and there are now all sorts of excuses that are hindering the process.
Everything is now Modi’s problem. His fault? He got stuff done. Fulfilled a promise that the Govt of India made many decades ago.
How about NPR? We have old video of P Chidambaram explaining just how amazing the NPR will be.
Why were there no protests back then? Because they didn’t actually get anything done.
This goes way beyond CAA, NRC or NPR.
There are other abbreviations with respect to which a similar pattern can be observed. Don’t forget GST!
Here is then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with the idea that Indian businesses were ready for GST as far back as July 2010. Also, he recognizes the realities of India’s economy and society, thus proposing a “GST” with multiple tax rates.
A few years later, the Congress would go on a warpath against the government for a complicated GST with many rates!
The difference? It is just that the Congress didn’t get anything done. Modi sarkar went ahead and implemented GST. That’s why all the problems that followed were blamed on PM Modi. He had invited Dr. Singh to the official launch in Parliament, but Dr. Singh declined. He didn’t want to risk any blame.
Don’t take risk. Do nothing. Avoid direct blame. Status quo for the win!
This has been the Congress model. And it has worked amazingly well for them, putting four generations of one family in power.
By 1991, India had not moved an inch in forty years. They say that toilet coverage in India was below 40%. I am scared to ask what the number was back in 1991. Imagine the speed at which things were being done since independence.
The same goes for Aadhar. The Congress government designed it, but little was actually ever done with it. It is only now that Aadhar has been connected to everything from welfare schemes to income tax returns.
The Congress has been around long enough that every idea, whether good or bad, has been circulated by it. But everything was done with half measures, trying to avoid risk, reward or blame. Worked great for Congress because they had been in power almost all the time. Rocking the boat made no sense.
But did it make sense for the people of India? That is the question.