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How India’s liberals and opposition can start winning the battle of ideas

6 20 0
08.08.2019

As Amit Shah announced the dismantling of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the opposition was split. Some of them knew it would be foolish to oppose a move that came with the force of nationalism.

Perhaps, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was taken into confidence by the BJP, but a party like, say, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was certainly not. Many in the Congress, particularly those who have to soon face the voters in state elections, publicly broke ranks with their party to support the move.

Before announcing the decision on Article 370, Narendra Modi and Shah must have asked themselves this question: Will the move get popular public support in India? The answer, we can now be certain, was yes.

Until it actually happened, doing away with Articles 35A and 370 seemed unthinkable. How did it become so mainstream that the government could do it with the stroke of a pen?

A policy expert in the US, Joseph P. Overton, came up with a theory of how ideas move in public discourse – from being unthinkable to policy. This theory came to be known as the Overton Window, and was consciously used by Donald Trump in the run-up to his 2016 election campaign.

A further refinement of the theory spelled out the journey from Unthinkable to Policy:

The discourse on dismantling of J&K has also followed the same strategy. Hindutva’s views on Article 370 have always been well-known. The problem was always framed as ‘Why should Kashmir have something special that we don’t?’

Until Modi became the PM in 2014, most people thought it was Article 370 that prevented them from buying land in J&K. After 2014, the BJP and its allied........

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