‘Wild card’ entry: Samvidhan bachao narrative strikes chord with voters – Times of India


The C-word was a ‘wild card’ entry, but at several stages of the election campaign, the Samvidhan overshadowed the regular cast of issues. Opposition was first on the draw, cleverly painting BJP’s 400-paar target as a dark plot to scrap reservations by changing the Constitution. The charge blended well with Rahul Gandhi’s declared intent of posing a phalanx of Muslims/OBCs/Dalits against a handful of the privileged (read upper castes/middle classes).
PM Narendra Modi launched his counter-offensive by saying it was Congress and its allies who were guilty of subverting the Constitution by extending reservations to Muslims even though faith-based quotas were not allowed.
He also dared Rahul, who would dramatically brandish a copy of the Constitution at his election rallies, to promise in writing that they would never attempt a Muslim quota again.
As the animated duel progressed, the Constitution became a talking point. This was the first time — with the possible exception of the 1977 election which, in the North, turned into a referendum on Indira Gandhi’s suspension of democracy — that the Constitution had found itself in the poll arena. After the results were declared, Rahul brought up the C-word again. “The fight was to save the Constitution. We were sure that the citizens of India would make attempts to guard it and I would like to thank everyone,” he said.

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Despite the sparring, there is no evidence to suggest that BJP indeed wanted to amend the Constitution. It has carved out a significant following among Dalits and OBCs, and it would be political harakiri to offend them. It is true that some in the larger Sangh Parivar consider the 42nd amendment, which inserted ‘secularism’ and ‘socialism’ in the Preamble during the Emergency, illegal, but there are no indications that the unease is shared by the BJP leadership. They would also not like to reinforce adverse perceptions at home and abroad by messing with something that has not been a deterrent in the implementation of its agenda — especially since the gap between ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’ can be creatively bridged.

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