The BJP's political opponents fear that the government wants to bring out the rules during the West Bengal election campaign to polarise the atmosphere. Another reason for dragging feet on a follow-up could be concerns over antagonising friendly neighbour Bangladesh President Sheikh Hasina.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed by Parliament in December last year with much fanfare, and notified shortly afterwards amidst protests. Surprisingly, the government has yet to frame rules under the Act, although these have to be issued within six months or else an extension has to be sought. In August, the government applied for a three-month extension, but the rules are yet to be declared. There are two explanations for the tardiness in implementing what the ruling party proudly proclaims as a landmark legislation.
The BJP’s political opponents fear that the government wants to bring out the rules during the West Bengal election campaign to polarise the atmosphere. Another reason for dragging feet on a follow-up could be concerns over antagonising friendly neighbour Bangladesh President Sheikh Hasina. She has voiced her disapproval of the controversial law. In fact, three Bangladesh ministers had cancelled official visits to India subsequent to the passage of the law. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Bangladesh on its 50th anniversary in March next year and would not want to sour the atmosphere before his trip.
JD(U) members are sorely missing Arun Jaitley, a long-time supporter of Nitish Kumar. The friendship of the two men, along with Sushil Modi, dates back to their years together in the JP Movement. In fact, Nitish is the only politician to erect a statue to commemorate the late Finance Minister in Patna. The JD(U) reckons that if Jaitley were alive, he would never have permitted Chirag Paswan to undercut Nitish so brazenly in order to strengthen the BJP.
Nitish may have been sworn in as Chief Minister again, but the vibes between the two allies are far from amicable. Nitish demonstrated his defiance by insisting on installing his old friend Mewalal Choudhary as minister, even though there were corruption cases against him during his days as vice-chancellor of Bihar Agriculture University. Now an embarrassed Nitish has had to suffer a rebuff and been forced to drop Choudhary following Opposition noises. If the BJP pushes Nitish too far, his going the Maharashtra way and sewing up an alliance with the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan cannot be completely ruled out.
Losing more perks
There was a time when many senior politicians pulled rank and felt they were entitled to special protocol while boarding an aircraft. They did not stand in queues for security checks or board the passenger shuttle from the airport to the tarmac. They were driven down in a separate vehicle. But under the Modi dispensation, such special privileges have vanished. The new airport security rules state that even former SPG protectees, except former prime ministers, are not exempt. So the Gandhis, who lost SPG cover in November last year after 35 years, are required to stand in a queue and board the aircraft along with the hoi polloi.
Not out of action
Because Amit Shah did not campaign in Bihar for a single day, rumours abounded of a serious health condition. Another surmise was that he apprehended a dismal outcome for the NDA. Both conjectures turned out to be incorrect. The truth is Shah stayed away on doctors’ advice because of low immunity after the coronavirus attack. Shah has now bounced back and attends the Home Ministry regularly besides supervising campaign strategies for the forthcoming West Bengal and Tamil Nadu elections. A section of the BJP was misled by the Bihar exit polls into assuming that the party was losing and party spokespersons at the briefing before the poll results were even given talking points to make on television in case of a defeat. They were unaware that Shah, though not physically present, was regularly in touch with general secretary in-charge of Bihar Bhupender Yadav who carried out his instructions.
NRI businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar was missing during the US presidential campaign this year, whereas in 2016, Shalli was a central figure who came to the rescue of the Indian government in opening doors for Indian officials to connect with the incoming Trump team. Then the MEA was caught completely off guard as it had expected Hillary Clinton to win. Kumar, who formed the Republican Hindu Coalition, and first came up with “Ab ki baar Trump Sarkar” was, however, less interested in Trump’s return this time. He wanted a firm commitment first on issues such as residency rights for grown-up children of long-pending green cardholders, and over he CAA and Article 370. Shalli, once the most visible Indian-origin supporter of Trump, was also disillusioned with the US President’s refusal to endorse wearing of masks against Covid. In addition, Shalli seems to have been ignored by Modi. He was not a visible presence at the Howdy, Modi! rally in Texas. When Trump failed to win the electoral college, Kumar offered no commiserations.