GUWAHATI, Feb 13 - Terming the failure of the BJP-led government to push through the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in the Rajya Sabha as a victory for the people of Assam and the North East, major Opposition parties today, however, cautioned against any complacency.
Leaders of various Opposition parties told The Assam Tribune that they are determined to continue the fight against any attempt by the BJP-led Central government to impose the provisions of the Bill through the ‘back door’, like by issuing an ordinance.
“Eventually, the credit for the government’s failure to pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha goes to the people of Assam and North East. They stood united against the Bill,” Pradyut Bordoloi, secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), told this newspaper.
He added that the Congress took the initiative for conducting floor management among Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha.
“So, the BJP developed cold feet at the last moment despite the Bill being part of the agenda for the House. Full credit goes to the Congress and our leader Rahul Gandhi for this,” Bordoloi added.
Asked if there is likelihood of the government summoning a joint sitting of Parliament to try and pass the Bill, Bordoloi said, “Joint session is ruled out. However, they can bring in an ordinance... But, an ordinance will have to be later ratified by Parliament. And it is certain that the BJP will be voted out of office by the electorate during the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.”
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which snapped ties with the BJP on the issue of the Bill, exuded confidence that the Bill will now “die a natural death.”
“The situation in the North East now is such that I do not think the government will try to proceed any further with the issue. This is a victory for the people of Assam and the North East. All of us, including the AGP, AASU, AJYCP, KMSS, our intellectuals, and members of civil society and the common people of the North East fought together against the Bill,” said Ramendra Narayan Kalita, AGP general secretary and MLA.
Asked if, with the Bill going to get lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha after the general elections, the AGP is likely to rejoin hands with the BJP, Kalita said, “We have not discussed that issue within the party.”
However, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) general secretary Aminul Islam said the possibility exists that the government may convene a joint session under Article 108.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to continue the struggle till the BJP gives up the idea of granting citizenship to people on basis of religion,” said Islam, who is known as a confidante of AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal.
Islam accused the BJP of trying to pass the Bill for electoral gains.
“Bengali Hindus have significant influence in at least 50 Lok Sabha seats spread across the Eastern and the North Eastern region, including West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar. BJP, facing massive anti-incumbency, is desperate to win at least 40 of these 50 constituencies and that is where the Bill was expected to play a major role. However, the united struggle of the people of Assam and North East has prevailed,” he said.
Suprakash Talukdar, central committee member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the government should desist from adopting the ordinance route.
“I do not think that the joint session option exists in this case (of the Citizenship Bill). There are certain provisions in the Constitution for summoning a joint session and I think the Bill does not fit in. However, the ordinance route is open before the government but it should refrain from going ahead with that,” Talukdar said.
He added, “Even the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states in the North East have opposed the Bill. There was a mature reaction of Opposition parties to the Bill, and even of some NDA constituents. The government should respect the sentiments of the people of the North East.”