Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to Rajya Sabha will fuel debate around CAA, NRC; ex-CJI likely to counter Opposition Assamese candidate AJit Kumar Bhuyan

Much to the woes of the Opposition, the nomination of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to the Upper House of the Parliament is likely to fuel the political narrative the BJP is trying to weave around citizenship in India.

It is noteworthy that the former CJI's nomination coincides with that of the Assam Rajya Sabha Election, in which, the Opposition has fielded fire-brand Assamese sub-nationalist leader Ajit Kumar Bhuyan as its common candidate.

 Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to Rajya Sabha will fuel debate around CAA, NRC; ex-CJI likely to counter Opposition Assamese candidate AJit Kumar Bhuyan

File image of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. PTI

By now everyone should be convinced that the CAA and the NRC are likely to remain the focal issues for the BJP in the times to come in the very same way the Ram Janambhoomi issue was for the saffron party. In fact, the new narrative has proven to be equally polarising, hence helpful for the BJP in further consolidating its support base.

Though the BJP seems to be willing to keep the narrative on CAA and NRC alive till 2024, its longevity is mostly dependent on the results of the Assam Assembly election to be held in 2021.

If the BJP happens to lose the 2021 Assembly polls in Assam, a state which is seen as the fountainhead of the new narrative around citizenship, then the saffron party may have to push the debate around citizenship to the back burner.

The debate over citizenship has proven to be a great distractor at a time when the health indices of the economy are hitting new lows every now and then. The best strategy for the BJP at this moment seems to be to keep fuelling the debate. The nomination of former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, the man who brought the debate to the nation’s imagination by ordering the updation of the NRC in Assam, seems to be the best bet.

It is also noteworthy that the BJP came to power in Assam in the year 2016 on the backdrop of a bloody riot in Kokrajhar between immigrant Muslims and Bodo tribal groups. The riot was stretched over a rather long period of over two years.

The saffron party’s anti-immigrant tirade in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly polls, which saw it declaring Badaruddin Ajmal, a prominent leader among the immigrant Muslims, as the enemy produced a desired polarising effect, resulting in a massive victory for the party.

The BJP requires a similar polarising and emotionally charged environment to repeat the 2016 mandate. It is also required to be seen on the right side of the debate. Here, the politically right side is the side of the indigenous Assamese, the community that actually controls the state’s political discourse. The nomination of Ranjan Gogoi, the poster boy of Assamese ethnonationalism, serves that purpose.

After the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament, the saffron party’s credibility in Assam is in tatters. For, in Assam, an illegal immigrant has no face and religion. The demand among the masses has always been -- any person who immigrated illegally has to leave.

The CAA which grants special remission to illegal immigrants of certain religious denominations is seen as a document of betrayal by a major section of the indigenous citizens. Moreover, it is also seen as a violation of the Assam Accord which bars granting citizenship to any illegal immigrant who entered Assam after 25 March 1971.

Taking advantage of the newly emerged situation, the Congress and Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF have jointly fielded firebrand Assamese sub-nationalist journalist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan as a common candidate in the Rajya Sabha Election slated on 26 March.

It's likely that Congress and AIUDF have fielded a person of Bhuyan's stature to neutralise the attempts to polarise the society ahead of the Assembly polls in Assam. As for the BJP, it needed someone with a higher calibre, mettle, and credibility than Bhuyan in the Upper House of the Parliament. Ranjan Gogoi fits the bill.

Updated Date: Mar 18, 2020 17:25:55 IST



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