Decoding PM Modi’s Ramlila Maidan Speech: A ‘Soft Retreat’ from BJP’s Erstwhile Aggressive NRC Take?

Photography - Vikash Sharma / The New Leam

The nation was eagerly waiting for the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to finally speak on the contentious CAA and NRC amid nation-wide protests and popular dissent become more than apparent over the last few weeks. He broke his silence and finally spoke up on the ongoing protests against the Citizenship(Amendment)Act at the mass rally that he addressed on Sunday at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. He assured the Muslim community and others that there was no discussion on the National Register of Citizens in his government.

This move from the original aggressive assertion of the NRC by Union Home Minister Amit Shah can be seen as an important retreat in the light of ongoing protests against the contentious CAA and NRC across the country.

The prime minister was addressed thousands of people who had gathered to thank him for regularising unauthorised colonies at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. He also took this opportunity that the NRC had been applied to Assam only after it had been approved by the Supreme Court of India and that the idea had come up originally during the time of the Congress government. He asserted that it was the Congress that had introduced the concept and that the BJP had not thought about it from the blue. He also informed everyone that the issue had not been taken up by his Cabinet yet or discussed in Parliament and the rules had not been created yet. Indian Muslims according to the Prime Minister had no reasons to worry or be afraid. He cautioned everyone that the CAA wasn’t against any citizen of India and there had been “concerted misinformation” that was being spread by the Congress and the “urban Naxals.”

He also went ahead and accused the Opposition of spreading childish lies about people being sent to detention centres and asserted that his party went one that would discriminate between individuals on the basis of their religious affiliations. 

He appealed, “My rivals can burn my effigy, they can beat my effigy with they hate me, but do not set public property on fire.”

It is quite interesting to look at the party’s subtle retreat from its initially assertive and powerful stance on the CAA and the NRC after countrywide protests have jolted every town and city of the nation. The government certainly is facing international embarrassment as the countrywide protests have only amplified in the last ten days or so. The PM’s image itself is at stake, especially at a time when the protests kept on growing and more and more people began coming out onto the streets.  Perhaps this is the reason why the government has once again began to assert the message “Sabka path sabre vikas” and not alienating the Muslims.

As Delhi’s assembly elections are just a couple of months away, it may be interesting to see how the BJP tries to gain lost ground and support at a time when the country is brimming with anti CAA and NRC protests.

With Prime Minister Modi saying over a dozen times that his party’s politics wasn’t based on discrimination and asked the people attending the rally at the Ramlila Maidan, “ When we authorised the unauthorised colonies, did we ask anyone their religion? Did we ask which political party they supported? Did we ask for documents from 1970,1972,1980? I want to ask the Congress and other political parties… why are they lying?”

He substantiated his arguments giving examples of other schemes and policies that his government has introduced such as the Ujjwala, which had eight crore beneficiaries- he said that at no point did his party look at the religion of the people whom the scheme’s benefits reached out to. He said that religion was never aa criteria for anything that his party did.

He urged people to respect the Indian flag and said, “Since they are carrying the national flag, I feel assured that they will understand the responsibility of holding the flag…They will not resort to violence. Holding the flag is a right, but also a responsibility.”

He also made his appreciation of police personnel who tried to crack down on the protestors across various destinations throughout the country quite clear during his speech. He stated, “ 33,000 policemen gave scarified their lives since independence. When there is a crisis, they don’t go around asking people’s religion.”

During his speech of about 100 minutes, PM Modi launched a sharp attack on the Opposing especially the Congress and alleged that it was behind the violence and behind raising false propaganda to defame the country internationally. PM Modi said during his speech, “These parties have tried to defame me for the last 20 years and now they find that Modi is gaining support in Muslim countries too, so they have started spreading feae among the Indian Muslims. There is an effort to finish me. They will not be successful.”

Prime Minster Modi also alleged that India had lost the opportunity to expose neighbouring country Pakistan on its inhuman treatment of the minorities but had lost due to the politics of parties such as the Congress, AAP, Trinamool Congress and the Left. He also went ahead and targeted the chief ministers of states such as West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Kerala and their being vocal about not allowing the implementation of the CAA in their respective states. He also gave special attention in his speech to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who has been the most vocal out of all the chief ministers about her opposition to the CAA and the NRC. PM Modi also lightened the mood by mimicking Mamata Banerjee a few times and asking her why she could not see the challenge of infiltration from Bangladesh and whether she had been totally blinded by vote bank politics. 

In the coming days it would be interesting to see whether PM Modi’s “soft retreat” from the BJP’s earlier aggressive and ruthless stance on the NRC will really indicate any substantial victory for those protesting against the contentious law or whether it is only a temporary remedy for an onslaught on his international image and a global embarrassment that India has had to go through ever since the law was passed? 

 

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