A DAY after the Union Cabinet cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday that his party would oppose it. BSP president Mayawati also criticised the Bill, and said it should be sent to a parliamentary committee for review.
The Bill, that aims to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is set to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing Winter Session.
Speaking in Wayanad, Rahul said: “The Congress party is against any form of discrimination. So, anybody who discriminates against anyone who is Indian, we are against them. That is our party’s line. We believe that India belongs to everybody — all communities, all religions and all cultures.”
In Lucknow, Mayawati called the Bill “completely divisive and unconstitutional”. “Through the Bill, they want to give citizenship on the basis of religion, which will lead to discrimination on the basis of religion. This is against the basic structure of the humanitarian and secular Constitution, drafted by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. Hence, the BSP is not content with the Bill in its current form,” she said.
Saying that the Bill was “brought in haste”, she said: “Like demonetisation and GST… the Citizenship Bill is being forcefully imposed on the country… It should be sent to a parliamentary committee for discussion so that it can come in front of the nation in a constitutional form.”
“Any decision by the Centre should not appear to be against a caste, religion, community or region, and should not show any malice. Such a decision will be considered a crime against the dignity of the Constitution,” she said. “It is the BSP’s Ambedkarite policy that it will support any decision of the Centre if it respects people from different castes, religions and communities and if it is not made with a narrow mind. If this is not the case, we will oppose it rigorously. The CAB, in its current form, has a lot of issues. The government should consult all parties before bringing it to Parliament, and resolve all serious apprehensions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, SP, AAP, CPI, CPI(M), IUML, DMK and RJD, met in New Delhi to discuss the Bill. Resolving to make clear the government’s “inherent intention” to the “masses”, they are set to counter the government’s stand on the CAB being crucial for national security with a counter-narrative on how it violates the Constitution.
“A copy of the Bill is yet to be circulated, hence the information that we have so far is from media reports. It does not seem likely that the Bill will be circulated before next week. In the interim, we will take our message to the people and effectively counter the national security spin that is given to the Bill,” said an Opposition leader who attended the meeting.
The parties emphasised the need to communicate to the people that if religion-based discrimination is condoned, it will not stop with one religion. “This is just the beginning. Today it is one religion, tomorrow it will be another,” said a leader.
“Wake up or else BJP will rob you of your citizenship. Sometimes it will be Sikh, or Dalit, or Tamil, or Bengali. All will lose citizenship,” tweeted AAP MP Sanjay Singh.
While most of the Opposition parties have stated their intent to vote against the Bill, some like the TMC are learnt to be weighing their options, considering whether to directly oppose it or adopt an alternate strategy like a walkout. With the change in numbers in Rajya Sabha, and parties like the Shiv Sena supporting the Bill, the Opposition camp feels that the legislation may be passed by Parliament, despite their protests.
In Kerala, Rahul also targeted the Centre on the economic slowdown. “Mr Amit Shah and Mr (Narendra) Modi live in their own imagination. They don’t have contact with the outside world. They live in their own world and fantasise about things. That is why the country is in such trouble. If Narendra Modi listens to the people of the country, the people of Kerala, there would not be such problems. Modi’s style of governance is to distract the attention of people from real issues. Because he lives in an imaginary world… he wants India to live in an imaginary world. Now that imagination he has created is crumbling,’’ he said.
Later, addressing party workers in his constituency, Rahul said the BJP could not bully him by registering cases against him across the country. “There are 15 to 16 cases against me. When you look at a soldier, he has many medals on his chest. Every single case is a medal for me. The more the cases, the happier I am. So when they lodge a case against me, they put a medal on my chest. It is also a medal for you (party workers),” he said.