Shiv Sena backtracks on Citizenship Bill after Congress ire

Updated: Dec 11, 2019, 12:47 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Shiv Sena MPs had voted in favour of the bill in the Lok Sabha upsetting the Congress, its new ally, in the state

Uddhav Thackeray said the Shiv Sena will not support CAB in the Rajya Sabha. File pic
Uddhav Thackeray said the Shiv Sena will not support CAB in the Rajya Sabha. File pic

A day after the Shiv Sena voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Lok Sabha and faced the wrath of the Congress, its new ally in Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party said on Tuesday that it wanted the CAB draft to be incorporated with the suggestions it had made but were ignored while the bill was passed in the lower house.

CAB will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. But will Sena's U-turn affect the outcome as it has only three MPs in the upper house. Insiders said the Sena chief and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray's posturing was an afterthought to placate the Congress, which is a partner in the Maharashtra government. The Sena was at the receiving end from Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Husain Dalwai and others.

"The CAB is an attack on the Indian Constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation," tweeted Rahul Gandhi.

Party's general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra didn't name the Sena but said on Twitter, "Last midnight, India's tryst with bigotry and narrow-minded exclusion was confirmed as the CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha. Our forefathers gave their lifeblood for our freedom. In that freedom is enshrined the right to equality, and the right to freedom of religion."

Uddhav's damage control

Dalwai expected the Sena to abstain from voting in the Lok Sabha. Earlier, he had asked the Sena to come clean on the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha, which the liberals want banned, but Sena doesn't.

On Monday, the Sena criticised the draft bill in its mouthpiece Saamna. Some of its leaders had suggested that they wanted the "refugees approved for citizenship" to not get the right to vote for the next 25 years. But in the end, the party's MPs voted in favour of the bill.

On Tuesday, Uddhav, who seemed to have taken the Congress ire seriously and went into damage control mode. He said the Sena's queries in the Lok Sabha on CAB were not answered. "We need to change the notion that anyone who backs the CAB and BJP is a patriot. It is an illusion that only the BJP cares for the country," he said demanding the amendment as per his party's suggestions. Currently, the Sena sits outside the NDA benches in the Parliament as it has quit the Modi Cabinet before forging an alliance with the two Congress parties to keep the BJP away from power.

"The Sena won't support the bill [in the Rajya Sabha] till we get clarity on questions asked by the Shiv Sena," he told media persons in Mumbai.

NDA confident of passing bill

Sena has 18 LS MPs and only three members in the RS. Insiders said three Sena members abstaining or voting against the bill might not make a difference to the result as many other parties are expected to vote in favour of the bill. The BJP (NDA) is confident of crossing the halfway mark of the effective strength of 238.

Earlier, Sena's Lok Sabha MP and former minister, Arvind Sawant, has said the Sena could not take a different stand in RS. "We have always kept the national interest our top priority. National interest isn't anyone's monopoly," he said in New Delhi.

Debating the bill, Raut said there was no clarity on which state would get the migrants rehabilitated. He also wanted Sri Lanka to be added in the list of countries from where refugees would get citizenship in India.

Thackeray said home minister Amit Shah who answered the debate, hadn't responded to Sena's queries while other parties were considered. He said the country should also know about the process of verification of refugees before being granted citizenship.

Cong pressure on Sena

The NCP, the third partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi, voted against the bill. Party leaders said the Sena was ideologically different, and the vote in favour would not impact a common minimum programme for the three-party state government.

Ex-CM and Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis asked if the Sena was under pressure from the Congress to change its stance. "I believe Sena would not and should not come under pressure of anyone and should stick to its original stand [of supporting CAB]," he said.

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