With the ‘Save Lakshadweep’ campaign intensifying and leaders within the BJP taking exception to recent decisions by the archipelago’s Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, the party’s leadership is likely to ask Patel to go slow on implementing sweeping changes, according to sources. On Monday, Home Minister Amit Shah assured a BJP delegation that no measures will be carried out without taking the people in the islands into confidence.
“The Home Minister assured that the proposed changes are just suggestions and have sought the public opinion on them from the citizens in Lakshadweep. He asked us to tell people there’s nothing to fear and no steps will be taken there without taking the people into confidence. He said there will be discussions with people for their consent,” BJP Vice President A P Abdullakutty, in charge of BJP affairs in Lakshadweep, told The Indian Express after a meeting with Shah. He led a small delegation of BJP leaders, including Abdul Khader Haji, president of the BJP in Lakshadweep, to meet Shah and BJP President J P Nadda.
Lakshadweep NCP MP Mohammed Faizal, who also met Shah on Monday, said he has been assured that the Centre will not take any step in the islands without the consent of the people’s representatives, panchayats or the residents there. On his demand for recalling Patel, Shah said the Centre will take a decision later.
Shah’s assurance comes on a day when the Assembly in Kerala, a state which shares strong social and cultural links with Lakshadweep, passed a unanimous resolution demanding recall of the administrator for the controversial decisions that triggered widespread protests in the islands.
BJP leaders admitted that the ‘Save Lakshadweep’ campaign and the pressure from Kerala’s political class have put the party in a precarious position in both Kerala and in the islands. Besides, a section of senior BJP leaders at the national level also expressed their disapproval over the “way Patel has been handling the issues”.
Though there is no indication that the Centre would oblige to the Opposition’s demands to recall Patel, it is expected to direct the administrator to “go slow” on implementation of the proposals he made. “The leadership agrees that there should be proper discussion before taking any steps in sensitive areas like this,” said a senior party leader.
Shah, according to Abdullakutty, has told the BJP leaders from the islands that the welfare of the people in Lakshadweep is always a concern for him and that he himself had taken special initiatives in resolving a drinking water problem facing the people. “He asked the party president there how the desalination project is progressing,” the BJP leader said.
The BJP leaders apprised Nadda of the “concerns and complaints” of the people in Lakshadweep. “Nadda-ji also said nothing should be done to trouble people in Lakshadweep. He was of the view that all measures should be taken keeping their welfare and their concerns in mind,” said a source familiar with the developments.
BJP sources said a section of leaders agreed that Patel could have “avoided such a controversy had he handled it properly”.
According to BJP general secretary Mohammad Kasim, who had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi protesting against some of the proposed regulations, “the one-sided decisions of a person” created the controversy. “The BJP has been active in Lakshadweep for the last 22 years and its government – both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government and the Narendra Modi-led government – have taken a number of measures for the people here. The 22 ships which are in use now were provided by the Centre during Vajpayee’s tenure. This government has increased the number of helicopters from one to three. While the services are improved in the Agatti hospital, new education institutions are built by this government. The BJP government has always stood by us.
“What is happening now is because of one-sided decisions of a person. We can never agree or cooperate with him on these. I am sure that the BJP government at the Centre will never stand by any decisions detrimental to Lakshadweep,” Kasim told The Indian Express.
The measures by Patel that have run into a controversy include a ban on beef in the Muslim-dominated Lakshadweep, introduction of a Goonda Act even as the crime rate is very low, a proposal to disqualify panchayat poll aspirants with more than two children, and establishment of a development authority with powers to acquire land.