Will the CAA Be BJP’s 2024 Election X-Factor?

Sukanta Majumdar, president of the West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is optimistic about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) being implemented before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Expressing faith in the central government’s commitment, he stated, “We had promised to build the Ram Mandir; we have done it. CAA is our goal, and we will achieve it.”

Majumdar’s assertion comes amidst ongoing debate surrounding the controversial Act. He argues that the decision ultimately rests with the central government, referencing Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s previous assurances of implementation. He further emphasized the BJP’s stance on the CAA by invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s words on India’s responsibility towards the Hindu minority in Pakistan.

  • The CAA expedites citizenship for persecuted religious minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians) from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. This could attract potential voters belonging to these communities, particularly in states bordering these countries.
  • By framing the CAA as a protective measure for vulnerable groups, the BJP can portray itself as championing religious freedom and national security, potentially resonating with certain sections of the Hindu majority.
  • The CAA aligns with the BJP’s ideology of Hindutva, emphasizing the protection and promotion of Hindu culture and values. This can consolidate the Hindu base and strengthen the party’s image as a defender of Hindu interests.
  • It can also fuel a sense of Hindu nationalism, potentially enhancing party loyalty among some voters

Echoing PM Modi’s Promise:

  • 42% of West Bengal’s electorate is Hindu, according to the 2011 census, presenting a potential BJP voter base receptive to the CAA’s perceived protection of Hindu minorities in neighboring countries.
  • Recent BJP gains in West Bengal: In the 2021 Assembly elections, the BJP’s vote share jumped to 37.7%, a significant increase from 16.8% in 2016. This momentum could be further bolstered by a pre-poll CAA rollout.
  • Modi’s 2022 Thakur Nagar promise: During a 2022 rally in West Bengal, PM Modi pledged swift implementation of the CAA, a promise Majumdar referenced to rally support.

Counterpoint and Challenges:

  • Trinamool Congress’s staunch opposition: The ruling Trinamool Congress vehemently opposes the CAA, citing concerns about discrimination against Muslim minorities and potential disenfranchisement. With 48% of the 2021 vote share, they stand as a formidable roadblock to the BJP’s CAA ambitions.
  • Lingering legal hurdles: The CAA’s implementation remains mired in legal challenges, with petitions pending in the Supreme Court. Any delays or unfavorable rulings could derail the BJP’s pre-poll plans.
  • Potential social unrest: The CAA has sparked protests and communal tensions in past. Implementing it could reignite these issues, posing a stability concern for the state.

The CAA’s implementation before the 2024 polls is undeniably a gamble for the BJP. While it holds the potential to solidify their gains and attract new voters, its success hinges on overcoming legal hurdles and navigating the Trinamool Congress’s strong opposition. The coming months promise to be a tense political theater with the CAA taking center stage.