‘They will turn it into a Hindu-Muslim issue’ – Jairam Ramesh says CAA protests helping BJP
New Delhi: Nationwide protests against the allegedly communal and’unconstitutional’ Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have continued unabated for nearly a month now. But senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh believes these protests will achieve little and will play into the hands of the ruling BJP.
‘It’s in the BJP’s interest to keep the CAA protests going. They’ll reduce everything to a matter of Hindus and Muslims,’ Ramesh said in an interview to ThePrint. The protests in Uttar Pradesh have already started to benefit the BJP government in the country, ” he said.
‘There is a potential for a backlash since the BJP is making it a communal issue. UP is a classic example of how it has given Yogi (Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath) a lifeline,’ Ramesh said.
Fight against NRC
The former Union environment minister said there was no point protesting against the CAA, even as he said the Congress’ strident opposition to the NRC.
‘Our protests are more powerful against the NRC. The CAA is an established fact. We have a greater probability of quitting the NRC legally and constitutionally,’ said Jairam Ramesh.
While the CAA is essentially an amendment to a 1955 Act, the projected nationally NRC could require people to prove citizenship. The Modi government has not given a date to carry out the exercise, though it has said previously NRC will be conducted across the country.
‘The CAA can only be reversed by Parliament, which could happen for the next four decades or it may be struck down by the courts, which is what we’re expecting (for),’ he added.
Congress chief ministers, among others, have said they won’t implement CAA in their respective states. But the legality of such a move remains in doubt, according to Ramesh. He added that the resolution passed by the Kerala government against CAA has an enormous political importance.
But, Ramesh maintained that the CAA is unconstitutional. ‘The CAA fundamentally rewrites the Constitution. It violates the basic structure of the Constitution.’
Ramesh said the fight against the NRC is significant because it affects all parts of society. ‘The NRC persecutes everybody. I know Hindus who don’t have documents. Look at Assam. Nearly 80 percent of those are Gurkhas, Bengali Hindus. The NRC persecutes the poor.’
Nearly 19 people were left in a Supreme exercise from the final NRC draft in Assam.
‘Congress should evaluate 2019 loss’
On the state of this Congress, Jairam Ramesh said his party should’brutally introspect’ its 2019 Lok Sabha election reduction — it won 52 seats, eight better than its 2014 tally.
‘There has been no institutional post-mortem to determine what went wrong in the 2019 elections,’ Ramesh said. ‘that doesn’t mean that we do not do a post mortem, although Then Congress president Rahul Gandhi resigned and took responsibility.’
The Congress leader added,’the resignation of Rahul was a fantastic sacrifice but it is no substitute for introspective analysis that is dispassionate. We should do it while memories are fresh and never presume that verdicts that are state-level will be reflected in the national elections in 2024.’
Ramesh added that there will be no dearth of problems for the party but that would require some changes.
‘In the last two years, the BJP has lost ground in at least eight states. But we will need to empower state leadership and create paths of advancement of people irrespective of family backgrounds,’ he said.
‘The important thing is to get states moving right now, our national recovery in 2004 also came after we took several states.’
According to Ramesh, no person can revive the Congress.
‘No single person is a magic wand. I think Rahul Gandhi has said that, Sonia Gandhi has said it differently. We must realise Indian politics has changed, society has changed and the nature of competition has shifted. Only a gigantic effort will help revive the party,’ said Ramesh.
The former Union minister said the Congress must be’far more proactive in our communication’.
‘We have to speak in a language people have to always communicate not episodically and can relate to. We also have to be mindful how (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (Home Minister Amit) Shah and his cohorts will respond and need to be a step before them.’
Ramesh, however, countered charges that the party was in a state of paralysis.
‘This is a government that’s on the defensive. So it’s wrong to state that the Congress isn’t cornering the Modi government on various issues,’ he said.
‘On CAA, we voted against it as opposed to three years back, when we walked out. There was greater clarity this time. We have now approached the Supreme Court against the legislation and made our stage.’