Support to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) at the Parliament seems to be “growing” and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may just “walk away” with the last laugh.
In the last Lok Sabha when CAB was tabled, the entire opposition parties formed a “virtual alliance” against the Bill, which, however, seems to be missing this time around.
Many parties who were earlier “critical” about the Bill, seems to be “changing track” and this was “somewhat” prominent when the Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the introduction of the CAB in the Parliament.
“122 members in the Rajya Sabha are already supporting CAB and we are expecting more parties to join in,” the Indian Express reported quoting BJP sources.
The current strength of Rajya Sabha is 238 and BJP requires the support two-thirds of these members for passing the Bill in the Upper House of the Parliament.
In the last session of the Parliament, the Bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha as the BJP did not have the required numbers.
The Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)], an ally of the BJP, had walked out of the house when the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this year and it also led a campaign opposing the legislation.
A party delegation, in fact, visited the Northeast and met the members of the protesting civil bodies and promised to vote against the Bill.
On Wednesday, after CAB was cleared by the Union Cabinet, a senior JD (U) leader said: “the party’s stance changed after discussions with some ‘like-minded parties’ of Northeast”.
According to him these parties from the Northeast, which had earlier opposed the Bill, are supporting it now.
When BJP’s Rajendra Agrawal-led Joint Parliamentary Committee finalised its report recommending the introduction proposed legislation in its original form, Biju Janata dal (BJD)’s Bhartruhari Mahtab wrote a dissent note.
“The Bill violates the Assam Accord, which considered those coming to India after March 25, 1971, as intruders.,” Mahtab had written then.
“Moreover, the locals are also opposing the bill as they feel it will threaten their indigenous identity,” he added.
However, on Wednesday there was no reaction by the party and according to sources, the BJD was now ready to “back the new Bill” since it exempted tribal areas of Northeast.
Trinamool Congress (TMC), who till date has been the most vociferous opponents of the CAB, maintained silence on its stand after the Cabinet cleared the Bill on Wednesday.
Does this mean the TMC will also be supporting the Bill at the Rajya Sabha?
If everything falls in place then the BJP will have no problem in achieving the magic number.
Shiromani Akali Dal and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) are allies of the BJP in NDA and they are expected to support the bill.
The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) has also been openly supporting the bill and it is “confirmed” the party will support the Bill in the Parliament too.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) backed the government in the last Lok Sabha in many crucial bills.
However, their position regarding the CAB is yet to be known and they have not announced anything certain so far.
Shiv Sena has been clear about their stand- they support CAB and has been canvassing for it openly.
Will anything change after the Maharashtra power drama- well that is something only time will tell.
BJP’s ally in Assam- the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has its leaders in the government and the AGP president Atul Bora has spoken openly in support of the bill.
Just a reminder, Atul Bora along with his two cabinet colleagues Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhushan Choudhury had “reigned” from the government after CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha this year.
However, later they joined the government again, even though they kept saying that they will not support CAB even being a part of the government.
Gradually, their statements’ kept on changing and today they are in full support of the proposed re-drafted Bill.
Former Assam Chief Minister and ex AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, however, said on Wednesday that he and the party stand against CAB and they are never going to support it.
“What Atul Bora said is his personal view and opinion and it doesn’t reflect the party’s stand,” Mahanta told reporters.
Those opposing the CAB see it as a threat to the indigenous identity of the Northeast.
They fear that the Bill will create social unrest in the region with Hindu-Bangladeshis outnumbering the ethnic communities.
“CAB will bring down a threat to our language, culture, and ethnic identity,” the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), one the main protesting organisations, have repeatedly said.
Numbers, if we consider the way we have seen now, are on BJP’s side and it should not have a problem in passing the litmus test in Rajya Sabha this time round.
But, as they say, “nothing in politics is final until it is final”, we cannot rule out anything and it will be interesting to see what will the BJP do if it fails the litmus test at Rajya Sabha once again.
Lots in stake for the saffron brigade!