Will Citizenship Bill Pass RS Litmus Test? Govt Sure of Numbers Despite Jitters from JDU, Shiv Sena


New Delhi: After a nearly seven-hour debate, the lower House of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday. The Bill is now set to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

While on paper, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appears to have a slim majority in the upper House, there still seem to be some uncertainties regarding a few parties’ stand on the issue — mainly the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Shiv Sena.

As it stands right now, the BJP has 83 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, while its NDA partners — All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or AIADMK (11), Lok Janshakti Party or LJP (1), Republican Party of India (Athawale) or RPI(A) (1), Shiromani Akali Dal or SAD (3), JD(U) (6), Asom Gana Parishad or AGP (1), Bodoland People's Front or BPF (1), and Paattali Makkal Katchi or PMK (1) — take the total number to 108. Among non-NDA members which supported the Bill in the Lok Sabha are Biju Janata Dal or BJD (7), Shiv Sena (3), YSR Congress Party or YSRCP (2), and Telugu Desam Party or TDP (2).

Additionally, four of the six Independent MPs and three of the four nominated MPs are likely to support the Bill, which takes the number of those in favour of the bill, on paper, to 129. With 121 votes needed to pass the Bill in the house, which has an effective strength of 240, the BJP seems to have the support it needs.

However, the road may become a little wobbly if some of the allies reconsider their position.

Former NDA member Shiv Sena, while calling the CAB an attempt to create an “invisible partition” of Hindus and Muslims in its mouthpiece Saamna on Monday morning, supported the legislation in the Lok Sabha “in national interest” later in the day.

On Tuesday, Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said his party “would not support the Bill (in the Rajya Sabha) until things are clear,” according news agency ANI.

The Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) had till recently been in opposition of the National Register for Citizens (NRC) and CAB, notwithstanding its alliance with the BJP, holding that the moves discriminated against the Muslim population and could trigger massive unrest in the northeast.

Though the party voted for the legislation in the Lok Sabha, the support brought internal disagreements to the fore with party vice-president Prashant Kishor expressing disappointment moments after his party extended support to the Bill, saying the legislation discriminates against people "on the basis of religion".

However, JD(U) MPS have so far indicated that there is no change in the party's position on the issue, though Kumar remains conspicuously silent on the issue.

Similarly, the AIADMK, which received criticism for supporting the Bill despite the fact that it excluded Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, is also under pressure whereas there’s no clarity over the AGP and BPF’s stand in the Rajya Sabha.

Likewise, 105 MPs are most likely to oppose the bill, which include Congress (46), Trinamool Congress or TMC (13), Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP (4), Communist Part of India or CPI (1), Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI-M (5), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or DMK (5), Indian Union Muslim League or IUML (1), Peoples Democratic Party or PDP (2), Kerala Congress (1), Samajwadi Party or SP (9), Telangana Rashtra Samithi or TRS (6), Nationalist Congress Party or NCP (4), Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD (4), Aam Aadmi Party or AAP (3) and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or MDMK (1).

Hence, in case the JD(U), Shiv Sena or AIADMK decides to reconsider its support to the bill, the BJP’s plans may suffer an upset in the Rajya Sabha. However, at present, that scenario seems unlikely.