Opinion: Triple talaq, Article 370... What next in BJP's larger scheme of things?

Triple talaq, Article 370... What next in BJP's larger scheme of things?
Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The perceived bonhomie between US President Donald Trump and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and the crumbling morale of the Opposition were the key triggers for the Narendra Modi government to act swiftly on Jammu and Kashmir.

A big boost for Modi is that many regional parties including Biju Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have welcomed the move to scrap Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and downgrading the state to a Union Territory.

This will give the central government absolute control over the Kashmir valley through its chosen lieutenant governor, as the new state legislature will have limited powers.

Governor Satpal Malik, who made the crucial recommendation for scrapping Article 370, may now be shifted to one of the larger states.

A former army general or ex-intelligence officer may be appointed lieutenant governor to run the two union territories.

Yet, the sense of alienation and helplessness among the people of Kashmir valley could increase, given the extreme steps taken by the government to prepare the state for its biggest shock in the last 69 years after Article 370 became part of the Constitution.

However, the people and political leadership in Kashmir knew that the BJP and its predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, had been opposed to what Jan Sangh's founding president described as "a state with two prime ministers, two flags and two constitutions".

Narendra Modi himself had been a key organiser of former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi's Kanyakumari to Kashmir yatra for hoisting the national flag in Srinagar's Lal Chowk on Independence Day.

Triple talaq, Article 370... What next in BJP's larger scheme of things?
Murli Manohar Joshi

Even when the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government came to power in 1998, the BJP had agreed with its allies to keep four core issues on the back-burner for the sake of coalition parties.

Scrapping of Article 370, construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Uniform Civil Code and a ban on cow slaughter were those issues. When the BJP got majority on its own in 2014, it still formed government with allies.

The party was cautious on these issues as it lacked a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

Triple talaq, Article 370... What next in BJP's larger scheme of things?
Atal Behari Vajpayee

It opted for an uneasy coalition with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.

Yet, there was immense pressure on the Centre as street protests and terrorist activity spiked.

The government dealt it with a heavy hand.

Relations with Pakistan too deteriorated due to the series of terrorist attacks on Indian soil, culminating in the Pulwana suicide bombing, which was retaliated by Indian airstrikes in Pakistan.

As the PDP-BJP coalition collapsed, hardliners in the party led by Amit Shah got an upper-hand. As Shah was pushing to scrap Article 370, global pressure mounted and regional relations soured.

US President Donald Trump, after initially isolating Pakistan, suddenly warmed up to Pakistan PM Imran Khan.

Trump, who is keen to pull out US troops from Afghanistan, wanted a bigger role for Pakistan in the land locked country as it had a hostile relationship with Afghanistan's western neighbour Iran.

Triple talaq, Article 370... What next in BJP's larger scheme of things?
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump

Imran Khan, who has strong support of Pakistani generals, liked the lifeline offered to his country suffering from economic slowdown, but urged the Americans to ensure that India was kept out of the Afghanistan talks.

He also sought US help to make pressurise Modi to come to the negotiating table.

The sudden announcement that India will not be involved in discussions on Afghanistan's future after US pull-out and Trump's claim that Modi had asked him to negotiate between India and Pakistan, also forced the Indian PM to advance the scrapping of Article 370. On the domestic front, Shah had been working hard on engineering defections from Congress and other opposition parties, both in Parliament and in states to weaken opposition to the government.

As many opposition parties are still in a state of shock after the drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, the government felt the ground situation can be altered in Kashmir.

Modi and Shah would get massive support outside Kashmir as the long-drawn insurgency has affected soldiers and policemen sent to the valley from all the states.

The opposition would be framed in the debate on whether it was with terrorists and separatists or with nationalist forces.

The government also intends to send a message to the Kashmiris backing separation that the old order has changed and they have to deal with a much more aggressive central government.

The stern message was that the Centre was ready to withdraw not only the special privileges of J&k, but also not hesitant to temporarily suspend freedom of movement and expression.

Its message to Pakistan is that it can no longer have the advantage of spreading terror in a state with special privileges where the politicians and officials could be easily intimidated.

The US president was presented with a fait accompli on Kashmir – India would negotiate with Pakistan from a position of strength than weakness. The Modi government is also looking for quicker results on the three other core issues of the BJP.

The Supreme Court has announced day-to-day hearing in the Ayodhya case and a judgement is expected by October.

The government hopes the judgement will clear the way for a "grand Ram Temple" on the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The passage of Triple Talaq law in Parliament has given more confidence to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to push plans for a Uniform Civil Code, as the government enjoys majority in both houses of Parliament.

The Law Commission is gathering opinion on the proposed Uniform Civil Code bill.

The creation of a separate Animal Husbandry ministry at the Centre post elections has also put the cow at the centre of government's promotion and protection policies.

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