While Rahul Gandhi is opposed to bill, some old guards seek middle path.
New Delhi: While Congress scion Rahul Gandhi on Thursday vehemently opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, a section of old guards in Congress want the party to follow a “middle path” on the issue. The old guards feel that at opposing the Bill this juncture would brand Congress as “anti-Hindu.” They apparently urged the Congress high command to support the Bill on the floor of the House and seek a clarification from the government on the status Muslims, “persecuted in other countries and seeking Indian citizenship.”
The leaders feel that in the past the BJP has been able to score political points over the Congress by branding it anti-Hindu. The fear that some Congress leaders have is that the BJP will accuse the Congress of “deserting distressed Hindus” who are being persecuted in neighbouring countries including Pakistan. This will also provide fodder to the BJP to target the Congress in the ongoing Jharkhand Assembly elections. Instead, they feel that the Bill should be supported and “right questions” should be asked from the government. Interestingly, all leaders of the Congress agree on the point that discrimination on the basis of religion is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. At present even if the Congress opposes the Bill, it may well pass in Rajya Sabha as several smaller parties have given their support to the Bill.
After the 2014 Lok Sabha debacle, the Congress had set up the Antony Committee to look into the reasons of the party’s defeat. The Committee in its report also listed “perceived minority appeasement” as one of the reasons of the party’s defeat. On several issues, including Ayodhya, dilution of Article 370, the Congress has been accused of minority appeasement and ignoring the interests of the majority community. The current Citizenship Amendment Bill provides that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan shall “not be treated as illegal migrants” even if they had entered India illegally.
Earlier this year, the Congress was caught unawares when the government brought in the abrogation of Article 370. The initial response of the Congress was to attack the move of the government but sensing the public mood and the mood of its leaders, the party supported it on the floor of the House. Before the party could come out with a formal response, several leaders had issued public statements approving of the government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. The CAB was cleared by the Cabinet on Tuesday. It is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week.