That the govt has lost control of the narrative in the matter of CAA and NRC is plain to see. The too little too late outreach program by ministers and others is not going to alter (mis)perceptions that have set in thanks to lies repeated often enough by the opposition. The botched up handling of protests at JMI alienated the student community at large. And just when passions were dying out, the mishandling of JNU attacks have once again ignited them.
While a lot amongst the countrywide protests are fueled by vested interests, quite a few are spontaneous – specially amongst the students. The students are protesting because they are alarmed by the scaremongering by the well oiled propaganda machinery of the left liberal eco-system, and not because they have any real understanding of the issue at hand or its implications. The narrative being built by the eco-system is speculative, generic and hinting at similarity between the sequence of events unfolding now with the rise of Nazi party in Germany. The government and party, which owes its rise to successful control of the narrative so far, appears to be on back-foot now.
Perhaps it was inevitable, a sense of complacency setting in after the spectacular electoral gains and failure of opposition’s attempt to rally opinion against the abrogation of Article 370. And with the issue fast turning into an emotive one with even those who are neutral but are falling prey to the fear mongering by the left liberal ecosystem, it is likely to take away the governments attention from all other work and reforms it intends to roll out. But all is not lost, and it’s still possible to regain the narrative.
Sometimes a small tactical retreat is prudent in order to achieve larger strategic victories. To deflate the steadily rising opposition to CAA and NRC, the government should do exactly that – take a tactical step back on the issue. Announce putting the CAA and NRC on hold till it is able to build a broader consensus. This would immediately bring an end to the shrill campaign being orchestrated against it – taking the wind out of the sails of the opposition so to speak.
Having doused the fire that is threatening to spread based on the fuel of ignorant fears of the clueless mass of students, the government should thereafter regain the narrative by a sustained awareness campaign on the issue of CAA and NRC. Simultaneously, it should order unbiased, fast tracked judicial enquiries into the incidents of violence at JMI, AMU, UP and JNU. While these are on, it can move on to focus on other pressing matters facing the nation.
In order to return to implementation of CAA and NRC, the government can also consider holding a plebiscite on the issue. The silent majority is in any case in agreement with the government’s line of thinking, and if the baseless fears of those affected by the fear mongering left liberal ecosystem can be addressed through the outreach campaign, the outcome of the plebiscite would be favourable. That would effectively shut up the one penny two penny opposition parties and radical groups that are currently opposing the implementation.
There is no shame in taking one step back to ensure you are able to take subsequent forward steps on a more sound footing.