Modi 1.0 was all about economics. Toilets were built, rural areas electrified, houses provided. Bank accounts and digitisation introduced, roads and canals built, ports modernised. Modi 2.0 is all about politics. Narendra Modi wants to reconstruct a new India Post Nehru Gandhi Era. Hence, the removal of Article 370.
Some Gordian knots need to be cut, not unravelled. Jammu and Kashmir is such a knot, an anomaly in the Indian Constitution. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have cut the Gordian knot of the Kashmir problem. They have removed Article 370 which was still in the chapter on transitory measures in the Constitution since its introduction way back.
It created an anomaly in the federal structure. Jammu and Kashmir (plus the unmentioned Ladakh) were not fully integrated into India. The accession ceded foreign affairs, defence and communications to the Centre but in all other subjects in the Central and the Concurrent list, the Legislative Assembly had to be consulted by Parliament. J&K could not benefit from Indian laws of non-discrimination against women or reservations. Citizens from the rest of India had no access to jobs, buying land or investing in business. J&K was and was not a part of India. The only way, internationally acceptable, was to have waited till a plebiscite could be held in both parts of J&K. Not only did Pakistan fail to withdraw its troops as required but it has conceded Gilgit, a part of the original J&K, to China. There is thus no prospect of J&K-wide plebiscite, as required by the UN.
Modi has changed the narrative. Modi 1.0 startled the country with demonetisation. It was (in my view) a great idea but the failure of new currency to be ready on time made its implementation more painful that it needed to be. Modi 2.0 has been much more careful and well-prepared in his super-shock move. Home Minister Amit Shah has emerged as the indispensable partner Modi needs. The entire operation was kept secret. Troops were moved and tourists removed under the camouflage of military risks. While the reorganisation Bill was listed, the stroke of removing Article 370 was done by the President. This is because whatever other differences, J&K was under President’s rule, with the Legislative Assembly dissolved. Parliament had the right to legislate on behalf of J&K. It was a small window but it satisfied the constitutional requirements for removing Article 370.
The bifurcation is a crucial piece of legislation. Ladakh is a vast territory, totally different from the Kashmir Valley and Jammu. It is sparsely populated but a huge source for solar energy. It will be the first Buddhist-majority Union Territory (UT), a first for India. J&K becomes UT as well but only temporarily. The Ladakh people have welcomed the bifurcation. The Modi-Shah team obtained a two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha and a better than 5:1 majority in the Lok Sabha, which would suffice for a constitutional amendment.
The Indian democratic system has voted for a decisive change in the hegemonic party. The first victory of Narendra Modi was treated by the Old Guard as an anomaly. But the second victory has now established the BJP as the governing party of the 21st century. Be ready for Modi 3.0.
This article first appeared in the print edition of August 11, 2019 under the title ‘BJP as party of the 21st century’