THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 28 DECEMBER, 2019
Allies back students
NEW DELHI: Youth power has exerted sufficient pressure on the allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party for them to have second thoughts on the Citizenship Amendment Act that they had backed through the two Houses of Parliament. Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are warning citizens against protests and violence, the allies are warning the BJP not to take their support for granted any longer.
The Shiv Sena has ended a tenuous relationship with the BJP in Maharashtra by parting ways to form a government in the state with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress. Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray has assured delegations of citizens who met him on this issue that the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens will not be implemented in the state. Protests against the CAA were handled with kid gloves by the Mumbai police under directions from the state government, that led to a social media storm of praise and approval for the cops.
Former Chief Minister of Assam, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta whose Asom Gana Parishad is an ally in the NDA has warned that the AGP is thinking of withdrawing support from the BJP coalition government in Assam. He said in an interview to India Today just ten days ago that the BJP should not take the AGP support for granted, and should withdraw the CAA. He said it was unfortunate that the AGP had voted for the law in Parliament. Mahanta and his party are feeling the pressure, with continuous protests in Assam against CAA and the National Register of Citizens that has created a furore in the state. As sources said, the party cannot afford to be against the tide without losing its support base and is worried about the BJP’s refusal to retract. “We will not allow this Act in Assam,” Mahanta told reporters. AGP spokesperson Jainath Sarma said that the AGP had decided to file a petition against the CAA adding, “we are an ally of NDA and BJP should honour and respect the people of Assam.”
The Akali Dal is also in two minds now after having supported the Act. SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal indicated this when he said that Muslims should have been included in the CAA. “"I am speaking on behalf of my party and the party is very clear that the Government of India should include them (Muslims) and should come out with an amendment because that what the people feel and is the mood of the nation," he told reporters at a press conference recently. SAD leader Naresh Gujral endorsed this and went a step further to insist that the Akali Dal support could not be taken for granted, and the BJP should learn to respect its allies.
Another CAA supporter Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, backed off as well saying that he does not support the NRC. This came after protests in the state asked him to spell out his party, niju Janata Dal’ stand on CAA and NRC. He said , however, that his party had supported CAA only because “it has nothing to do with Indians and deals only with foreigners.” He said that his party MPs had made it very clear in Parliament that they did not support the NRC.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has also dumped the NRC after Shah declared that it will be implemented all over India. “Kahe ka NRC; Bihar mein NRC lagu nahin karengein (‘Why NRC? We won’t implement NRC in Bihar’)”, Kumar was quoted as saying in the media after his right hand advisor Prashant Kishor opposed CAA and threatened to leave the Janata Dal-Secular government. Former ambassador and party general secretary Pavan K. Varma also trashed the CAA saying it was completely against the party’s secular ideology and the Constitution of India. He further described PM Modi’s comments against protesters as “shameful and shocking.”
“I take the guarantee that minority communities cannot be ignored and no wrong can happen to them as long as we are at the helm,” Nitish Kumar said as the protests have grown with opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal participating actively in the anti CAA campaign in the state after a particularly successful Bihar Bandh.
All BJP allies and supporting parties have started retracting from the support that helped turn the Citizenship Bill into an Act by voting for it actively in both Houses. Sources said that the people's protests have placed “us outside the loop and this is a cause of real concern.” The BJP is finding itself isolated within the NDA on CAA, with support limited to strong statements from the top leaders and RSS functionaries. The allies have all backed off with at least 12 chief ministers have come out in opposition to the CAA already. The BJP has lost Jharkhand to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Congress with the new government also expected to take a strong stand against CAA.
The only state that is moving aggressively to stifle dissent is Uttar Pradesh now with chief minister Yogi Adityanath seeking ‘revenge’ from protestors who are being described as ‘rioters’ without discrimination. The BJP government in Karnataka is treading cautiously and after the violence in Mangalore that left two dead, has been treating huge protests in Bengaluru and elsewhere with kid gloves.