Tightrope walk for Nitish Kumar as JD(U) split over support to Citizenship Amendment Bill

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Updated: Dec 10, 2019 2:15 PM

The JD(U) has six MPs in the Rajya Sabha. Its support to the bill will be instrumental as the BJP alone lacks a majority. The BJP has 83 MPs and the NDA including the JD(U) has 106 MPs, 15 less than the halfway mark.

Pavan Varma twitter, Citizenship Bill, Nitish KumarJD(U) national president and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. The JD(U) is a constituent of the NDA. It has six MPs in the Rajya Sabha.

The Janata Dal (United) led by Nitish Kumar may have supported the Centre’s Citizenship (amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday, there is a clear division in ranks over extending support to the Bill when it comes to the Rajya Sabha for discussion and passage tomorrow. The CAB, having cleared the Lok Sabha test, needs to be passed in the Rajya Sabha as well in order to become a law.

While party’s vice-president Prasant Kishor expressed disappointment last night, its Rajya Sabha MP and national spokesperson Pavan Varma echoed similar views on Tuesday afternoon. The senior JD(U) leader termed the bill as unconstitutional and discriminatory on religious lines.

READ MORE: Prashant Kishor says ‘disappointed to see JD(U) supporting Citizenship Bill’

Varma has now urged the party’s national president Nitish Kumar to reconsider the decision to support the legislation which is yet to clear the Rajya Sabha hurdle. The bill will be tabled in the Upper House on Wednesday where the NDA lacks majority and the opposition parties are looking to upset the BJP.

“I urge Shri Nitish Kumar to reconsider support to the CAB in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and against the unity and harmony of the country, apart from being against the secular principles of the JDU. Gandhiji would have strongly disapproved it,” he said.

Late last night, Prashant Kishor said he was disappointed to see JD(U) MPs backing the bill in the Lok Sabha. He also termed the bill as discriminatory and against the party’s constitution. “Disappointed to see JD(U) supporting CAB that discriminates right of citizenship on the basis of religion. It’s incongruous with the party’s constitution that carries the word secular thrice on the very first page and the leadership that is supposedly guided by Gandhian ideals,” he tweeted.

The JD(U) has six MPs in the Rajya Sabha. Its support to the bill will be instrumental as the BJP alone lacks a majority. The BJP has 83 MPs and the NDA including the JD(U) has 106 MPs, 15 less than the halfway mark. If JD(U) decides to boycott voting on the bill, the BJP may need to rework on its strategy.

Participating in the debate in the Lok Sabha, JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh said his party was supporting the bill since it was not against secularism. The change in the party’s stand surprised many leaders as Nitish Kumar had till recently opposed the National Register for Citizens (NRC) and the CAB.

The CAB seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from neghbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh facing religious prosecution.

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