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Twin worries make BJP rework CAA campaign

Amit Shah burns midnight oil
Amit Shah in Nagpur on Thursday.

J.P. Yadav   |   New Delhi   |   Published 02.01.20, 09:05 PM

The BJP is working on a fresh propaganda blitz to take on the Opposition campaign against the amended citizenship act, betraying signs of concern at the widening protests against the contentious law.

BJP chief Amit Shah, who had piloted the legislation in Parliament as home minister, was closeted with senior leaders at the BJP headquarters well past midnight on Wednesday.

Party sources said the meeting had been called to strategise and chalk out an “aggressive” propaganda offensive to show there was public support for the law.

Among those Shah met were BJP working president J.P. Nadda, general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santosh and some other key leaders.

The party has been running a campaign in support of the act but two developments appear to have triggered Shah’s intervention.

One, the resolution the Kerala Assembly has passed demanding the act be scrapped.

Two, the BJP is worried about the unending protests across the country, particularly in Assam, a state it rules, sources said.

Party leaders hinted at a sense of “deep concern” over the two developments. They said the government fears that more Opposition-ruled states might follow the Kerala model and pass resolutions against the CAA, which could lead to an unseemly Centre-state confrontation.

As for Assam, the party leaders claimed they had anticipated trouble in the state before pushing the bill and hoped the situation would normalise in a couple of months. But reports from the ground suggest the popular mood had turned against the BJP. Assam goes to the polls in 2021.

An indication of the growing discontent in the northeastern state came on Thursday. The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, a leading youth organisation, said the state should follow Kerala in adopting a resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) during its special Assembly session on January 13.

“If Kerala can take a resolution, why can’t Assam?… Assam should adopt a resolution against the CAA, given the widespread and sustained protests,” AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said.

In Delhi, BJP leaders conceded off the record the party was indeed worried. “The fact that the meeting continued well past midnight shows there is concern and some serious counter-offensive was planned,” a party leader said.

The BJP is already running a 10-day “jan jagran” (mass awakening) programme to build support for the CAA through door-to-door campaigns, public meetings and media conferences, but the meeting chaired by Shah suggests the party is taking a fresh look at the counter-strategy.

While those present at the meeting remained tight-lipped, others claimed the meeting had been called to plan a more intense campaign and put several leaders in charge of it.

“A new idea is to get eminent people from different fields to come out and join the campaign in favour of the CAA. This is to counter some voices, like the film personalities campaigning against the CAA,” one leader said.

He pointed to the Twitter campaign with the hashtag #IndiaSupportsCAA that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched. He said party leaders had been asked to go all out on social media with the hashtag.

“Apart from this, a toll-free number has been opened to enable people to give missed calls to show their support for the CAA,” another leader said.

Party managers appeared wary of the CPM-led Kerala government’s move to pass the resolution, but expressed confidence they would be able to tackle the move with their counter-offensive.

Before Shah sat down with his party leaders to strategise on Wednesday, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was pressed into action to slam Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan for pushing an “anti-constitutional” motion.

“The majority is in favour of the CAA but we have to effectively use the support on the ground to launch a counter-offensive. In the days to come, you will see overwhelming support pouring out in favour of the CAA,” a party leader said.


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