In democracy, consensus essential to push agendas - Hindustan Times
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In democracy, consensus essential to push agendas

Feb 12, 2024 08:09 AM IST

The question is whether the days of consensus in democracy have come to an end.

Three major developments from last week have the potential to affect how the country moves forward. The first was the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Uttarakhand, within three days of which, Union home minister Amit Shah offered a blueprint for pan-India adoption of the code. The second development was that of south Indian states approaching Delhi for a fair share of taxes. The third was Uttar Pradesh chief minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath claiming rights over the sacred sites of Mathura and Kashi. Amid these developments, another development hit the headlines: The Centre released a white paper in Parliament on the so-called economic mistakes committed by the United Progressive Alliance government. Before even the release of this white paper, the Opposition issued a “black paper” on the incumbent government’s decisions during its decade-long rule.

The Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code Bill 2024 was passed in the assembly on Wednesday. PREMIUM
The Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code Bill 2024 was passed in the assembly on Wednesday.

Obviously, we have reached the season of the Lok Sabha elections, and many such developments can be expected.

Coming back to the UCC, you may recall that when it was proposed during Prime Minister Modi’s first term, it took the entire country by storm. Along with it the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was also proposed. The minorities felt this was a means to ostracise them. A wave of protests followed, with some violent clashes with police at several locations, in which 65 people were killed.

Long sit-ins were staged at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi and other parts of India, providing the western media with grists for their mills. But Covid-19 quelled these agitations, and the government, too, decided it was best to put the NRC on hold, taking a cue from the failure of the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta government’s experiment in Assam in the 1980s with terrible results.

But that doesn’t mean NRC has been abandoned. Also, numerous states have shown an interest in adopting the UCC. In Uttarakhand, an innovative method was employed to get the code implemented. Despite the National Law Commission’s refusal, Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami formed a committee chaired by former Supreme Court justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, which gave its provisions a legal basis. This will eventually happen in other states as well.

But it would be better if all the parties likely to be affected by the code were taken into confidence first. This has not been done till now, which is why objections are being raised. In a democracy, consensus is just as crucial as the desire to fulfil one’s agenda.

Now we’ll look at the demands of southern states. They are not alone in voicing concerns over their fair share of taxes. Many other states have raised such demands. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee raised the same complaint just a few days earlier. But how right are those who make these demands? They are aware that taxes collected from the public do not go into anyone’s pockets. The Centre requires finances to fulfil hundreds of essential tasks, including defence, infrastructure development, and digitisation. The entire country benefits from these services delivered by the Centre, rather than just a state.

The question arises here whether the CMs of the southern states are worried about the Prime Minister’s growing popularity and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign beyond the Vindhyas. You may recall that Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah raised the issue of Hindi versus Kannada at the end of his previous tenure.

Now, let’s talk about Yogi Adityanath’s demand. His cabinet colleagues had already raised the demand, but the way Yogi put it in the assembly on Wednesday was notable. He said the Pandavas had requested for five villages, and we are asking for only three sites. Was he reminding us of the dangers of refusing the request of the Pandavas? Yogi is regarded as a tough and capable CM. Uttar Pradesh shed its sick-state status under his leadership. The majority may be pleased with his statement, but some may also be worried. The older generation would recall the 1980s, when a massive crowd had chanted “Ayodhya to bas jhhanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai” (Ayodhya is just a glimpse, Mathura-Kashi will be next). Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat has stated that we do not aim to initiate a new agitation after Ram Janmabhoomi, but if Yogi has raised this demand afresh, it should be taken seriously.

Finally, coming to the white and black papers, such political dramas have occurred in the past too, particularly when elections are near. The question here is whether the days of consensus in democracy have come to an end.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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