After a nearly seven-hour debate, the Lower House of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday. The Bill is now set to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. While on paper, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appears to have a slim majority in the upper House, there still seem to be some uncertainties regarding a few parties’ stand on the issue — mainly the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Shiv Sena. Will the BJP manage a smooth sailing with CAB?
After a smooth passage in the Lok Sabha, the real test for the BJP is to get the sensitive Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, where it is short of numbers.
But party insiders say the passage of the Bill in the Upper House has less to do with the numbers and more with inter-party chemistry, where the party’s top guns, led by Amit Shah, come into the picture.
At least two BJP Ministers — a Rajya Sabha member and the other an influential party General Secretary — say the chemistry will pave the way for the CAB passage.
The Rajya Sabha has a total of 245 members. But now, with a few vacant seats, the House strength comes down to 238. BJP needs 120 votes to pass the Bill, which is one above the halfway mark (119). The BJP has 83 MPs in the upper house and its National Democratic Alliance has 94 MPs.
Apart from BJP’s 83 MPs, the NDA also has 6 MPs from the Janata Dal (United), 3 from the Shiromani Akali Dal and 1 each from Lok Jan Shakti Party and Republican Party of India. The entire count goes up to 94.
There are 12 nominated MPs in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP is confident of support from 11, which includes Subramanian Swamy, Swapan Dasgupta, Rakesh Sinha among others. The only nominated MP the BJP is not counting on is K.T.S. Tulsi, say sources.
With 11 more Rajya Sabha members on board, the NDA’s count goes up to 105, where it still needs 15 MPs’ support. Here comes the BJP’s ‘chemistry’ to enable it to take the total tally to 120, making a smooth passage for the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or AIADMK is seen as part of the NDA and in one viral video, Amit Shah was earlier heard advocating AIADMK ministers to use NDA banner for events in Tamil Nadu rather than that of its own.
The alliance between the two parties in Tamil Nadu, however shaky, has been for all to see. Two senior Union ministers are pressed to take the southern party on board. The BJP is confident the AIADMK’s 11 MPs will vote in favour of CAB on Wednesday.
With 116 MPs, the BJP would need 4 more. But Amit Shah, who personally overlooked the floor management in the Lok Sabha on Monday, doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. Hence, the BJP wants to get a few extra votes in its kitty.
Sources say, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal was approached long before the Parliament session started for its “help” on passing the Bill in the Upper House. “Not only Naveen Babu, but V. Karthikeyan Pandian was also approached for this purpose,” said a source.
Pandian is the backroom person of the Odisha CM and considered de facto Chief Minister. The BJP has reason to believe that BJD’s 7 MPs will vote in favour of the CAB.
With three extra votes than required, Amit Shah’s party has also reached out to Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP which has 2 Rajya Sabha members.
Though Shiv Sena has said it will oppose the Bill, many in BJP are hopeful that the Sena at best may end up walking out, which will eventually help the government.
“Wait and watch. We will be having the last laugh tomorrow”, said a BJP General Secretary who is privy to talks with YSRCP. He said the government has more numbers than it needs for the Bill to pass the RS test.
The NDA government had introduced the Bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s approval. However, CAB couldn’t pass the Rajya Sabha test due to vehement protests.
With more protests mounting against the government this time, Home Minister Amit Shah is personally overseeing the arrangement to ensure the Bill sees the light of day.
A day before the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) is set to face the Rajya Sabha test, the government tried to clear the air by busting what it calls “myth” about the Bill.
In a series of tweets posted through the Press Bureau of India (PIB), the government clarified the perception that CAB would give citizenship to Bengali Hindus was wrong.
In fact, it says, “the CAB doesn’t automatically confer citizenship to Bengali Hindus. It’s just an enabling legislation for persons belonging to six minority communities.”
The government said the perception that the Bill diluted Assam Accord was a lie. The Assam Accord (1985) was a memorandum of settlement (MoS), signed between representatives of the central government and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on August 15, 1985, ending a six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal foreign (Bangladeshi) immigrants.
“The CAB doesn’t dilute the sanctity of the Assam Accord as far as the cut-off date March 24, 1971, stipulated for detection/deportation of illegal immigrants is concerned,” it said.
The Narendra Modi government also clarified that the Bill, that has become a political hot potato, was against the interests of indigenous people of Assam. The PIB in its tweets said, the CAB was not Assam-centric and was not against the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
On the ‘myth’ that the Bill will lead to the domination of Bengalis, the government said, “Most of them are settled in the Barak Valley in Assam, away from the tribal belts and blocks”.
The CAB was not applicable in areas where provisions of inner-line permit and Sixth Schedule to Constitution applied.
The perception that Bengali Hindus will become a burden for Assam and trigger fresh Hindu migrations from Bangladesh or the CAB is a “ploy” to grab tribal lands and several other concerns have also been sought to be addressed by the government.
On the concern — raised by opposition parties and also a US panel — that the Bill is discriminatory against Muslims, the government said, “Any foreigner from any religion from any country can apply for Indian citizenship if he/she is eligible to do so as per the existing provisions of the Citizenships Act, 1955. The CAB doesn’t change these provisions at all.”
The CAB, which seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, has attracted cold vibes from the opposition with the Congress calling it “unconstitutional”.
The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a six-hour long debate which saw a fiery speech by Union Home Minister Amit Shah defending the controversial Bill.
Among a total of 391 members present in the Lower House, 311 voted in favour of the Bill while 80 voted against it.
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, excluding Muslims, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. The Bill relaxes the requirement of residence in India from 11 years to six years for these migrants
“Delighted that the Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a rich and extensive debate. I thank the various MPs and parties that supported the Bill. This Bill is in line with India’s centuries-old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While defending the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Shah said that the Citizenship Bill does not affect Indian Muslims. He also said that no need to prepare background, India will have National Register of Citizens.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi described it as an attack on the Constitution and said that anyone who supports the Bill is attempting to destroy the foundation of India.
In a tweet, Congress MP from Wayanad said: “The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation.”
As treasury benches called it a historical Bill while the opposition dubbed the move to “kill secularism and Constitution of India”, “another attempt of partition” in the country in the name of religion and “violation of Article 14 of the Constitution”.
Major opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK), All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), AIUDF, BSP, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party and YSR Congress opposed the Bill citing various articles of the Constitution.
The Congress has issued a 3-line whip mandating its members in the Rajya Sabha to be present on the day of presentation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).
After the CAB had an easy passage in the Lok Sabha, the Opposition hopes to block its passage in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alone doesn’t have numbers and will need to rely on support from others.
A move to decide citizenship on the basis of religion amounts to a rejection of the Constitution and is an attack on the secular and democratic character of India, said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
In a statement, Vijayan said the Constitution of India guarantees the right to citizenship for all Indians, irrespective of their religion, caste, language, culture, gender or profession.
“This right is being made void by the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). A move to decide citizenship on the basis of religion amounts to a rejection of the Constitution. This is an exercise to divide people on communal lines. The bill, which aims to enervate our secular unity, was passed by the Lok Sabha with unusual haste and tenacity,” said Vijayan.
He pointed out that Muslims who have immigrated from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan are being excluded.
“The discrimination on the basis of religion, and preferential granting of rights is a denial of natural justice. The bill mentions that people belonging to six religious groups, from three neighbouring countries, can be granted citizenship. These two clauses must be withdrawn,” said Vijayan.
He also pointed out that it is not unknown to the Sangh Parivar that India houses refugees from Sri Lanka, in addition to the three mentioned countries.
“The amendment bill serves the communal policies of the Sangh Parivar and their devious plans to establish a non-secular state. The articles of the Constitution that relate to citizenship and fundamental rights are being violated here. India belongs to Indians of all kinds. Efforts to undermine this fact will only take our country backwards. It will destroy our hard-fought freedom. We must not let that happen,” said Vijayan. (IANS)