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TMC waits, watches: after strident opposition, silence before Citizenship Amendment Bill is tabled

Several TMC MPs said a call is yet to be taken on the matter, indicating the possibility of a shift from the party’s strident opposition in 2016 when the Bill was tabled in Parliament and scrutinised by the House panel.

Derek O’Brien, Sudip Bandopadhyay

After having vocally protested, and given a dissent note in the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Trinamool Congress’s silence on the day the Bill was passed, once again, by the Union Cabinet has given rise to speculation whether the party is recalibrating its stand.

Several TMC MPs said a call is yet to be taken on the matter, indicating the possibility of a shift from the party’s strident opposition in 2016 when the Bill was tabled in Parliament and scrutinised by the House panel.

The option of walking out, rather than a clear “no” vote, is still on the cards, said party sources.

TMC’s chief national spokesman and Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien said: “We have a lot to say, (and) we will say it on the floor of Parliament. As of 9.30 pm Wednesday, the TMC Parliamentary Party has still not seen the draft of the Bill approved by the Cabinet.”

He also said, “Sudip Bandopadhyay and I — in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha — are members of the Business Advisory Committee, so I suppose we will see the Bill tomorrow. But from what we see in the media, the BJP is bringing this Bill for narrow political gains…”

Maintaining that the TMC will “of course” oppose the Bill, Bandopadhyay said, “We will see what happens after the Business Advisory Committee meeting tomorrow. We will see if they ask for time for CAB…looks like it may come on Monday.”

Asked whether the party could walk out, he said: “We will see. But if we walk out, how can we oppose?”

While some MPs fear scaling down from the earlier stance would be a foolhardy political compromise that would cost them dear, others said it would be decided at a party meeting, the decision being the prerogative of TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.

The TMC was jolted by BJP’s 18-seat haul in Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls, riding, many believe, on the saffron party’s repeated commitments about NRC and CAB, as also the perception of Muslim appeasement that has stuck to TMC. Since then, Banerjee has tried to reestablish her Hindu credentials, visiting temples and pujas.

To oppose CAB with the same fervour as the party had done in 2016, many fear, could undo the effect of all those measures and cede the “Hindu” support to the BJP again.

A party MP said: “We do not really have a choice but to oppose CAB; even a walkout will not cut ice. We have taken to the streets on NRC and it has clearly borne fruit. To scale back now would mean losing both committed voters and ones we were hoping to get back in our fold.”

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