The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which was largely dissented by almost every Opposition party during the first term of the NDA government, found support from BJP allies like AIADMK, JD(U), Akali Dal and even fence-sitter BJD in the Lok Sabha on Monday. Following a nearly two-hour discussion on the legislation, which was introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, 293 MPs voted in favour of introducing the bill while 82 opposed.
While Congress and TMC led the charge against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill inside the Lok Sabha, the MPs of Indian Union Muslim League and All India United Democratic Front demonstrated in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament premises and at Jantar Mantar respectively.
“We reject this bill. It is against the Constitution and against Hindu-Muslim unity,” Badruddin Ajmal, AIUDF MP from Dhubri, Assam, told reporters. Besides Congress and TMC, AIMIM, Samajwadi Party, Left Front, DMK, RJD, BSP, NCP and Janata Dal (Secular) opposed the bill.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014. Cleared by the Cabinet last week, the Citizenship Amendment Bill provides exemptions in case of the entire Northeast except Manipur.
Opposition leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, TMC’s Saugata Roy, NK Premchandran, Gaurav Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor and Assaduddin Owaisi opposed the introduction of the bill, saying it was violative of various provisions of the Constitution, including the move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “It is nothing but targeted legislation against the minorities of the country.”
Earlier in the day, Shashi Tharoor submitted a notice in the Lok Sabha to oppose the bill on the grounds that it “violates” the fundamental right to equality. Tharoor submitted the notice under Rule 72 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
The Bill violates the Fundamental Right to Equality prescribed by Article 14 since it infringes upon the principle of “equality before the law” and the “equal protection of laws” guaranteed to all persons, including non-citizens, Tharoor said in his notice.
Calling the bill “divisive”, TMC MP Saugata Roy said, “While abrogating Article 370, you said one law, one nation. Now you say, the Citizenship Bill will not include areas like Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam and Mizoram. It is against everything and violates Article 14 of the Constitution.”
AAP leader Sanjay Singh claimed that the legislation was BJP’s attempt to end democracy in India and he would oppose it in the Rajya Sabha. “CAB is being opposed from Assam to Tamil Nadu. AAP will oppose it,” he said.
According to BJP sources, 122 members in the Rajya Sabha are already supporting the CAB and the party is expecting more parties to join them. The current strength of the Upper House is 238. In its previous term, the government could not push the Bill through in the Rajya Sabha due to lack of numbers.