Congress' failure to oppose Citizenship Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha exposes its dilemma over losing Hindu votes

Did the Congress and the Opposition miss a golden opportunity to scrap the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday by not allowing the government to place it in the Upper House? This question has arisen after the drama, which the Congress staged Wednesday, to oppose the government’s move to place the Bill.

Renowned constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap says that the Congress and the Opposition could have scrapped the bill on Wednesday itself by allowing the government to place it in the Rajya Sabha.

“The Bill requires support from a simple majority in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to become a law. The government has the adequate number of members to pass the Bill in the Lok Sabha and hence it did it. The Opposition has the required majority in the Rajya Sabha to reject the Bill, and could have cancelled it there itself,” he said.

The simple majority refers to the majority of more than 50 percent of the members present and voting. When the Constitution or the laws do not specify the type of majority needed, the simple majority is considered for voting.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned without any business on Thursday. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Significantly, the Opposition still has a bigger number of members in the Rajya Sabha than the ruling NDA. Since the Congress was seen opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill playing to the agitating masses of the seven states of North East India, it was expected that it would use the Opposition’s numbers to scrap the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was slated to be placed in the Rajya Sabha on 9 January, after it was passed in the Lok Sabha a day before.

But instead of rejecting the Bill, the Congress did not allow the government to place the bill itself in the Rajya Sabha.

Though the move prevented the government’s move to pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, it is seen as the Congress party’s failure to make the best of the opportunity of scrapping it.

"The passage of the bill certainly got delayed by the move. But since it is not yet scrapped, it can be placed again in the Rajya Sabha for its approval later on,” said Kashyap.

Soon after the government failed to place the Bill in the Rajya Sabha due to stiff opposition, Debabrata Saikia, a leader in the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee claimed in a press conference that the Congress in the Rajya Sabha foiled the placing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, as per the assurance that was given to a delegation of Assam Congress leaders by senior leaders of the Congress.

“Had it not been for the strong and effective strategy adopted by the Congress party, the Bill would surely have been introduced in the Rajya Sabha, if not actually passed,” said Saikia.

However, the Congress' move to only temporarily stall the Bill has created a number of theories.

As per one interpretation, the Congress stalled the bill only temporarily because it wanted the issue to remain alive in the North East till 2019 polls, to derive maximum political mileage out of it in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s statement appealing the people to vote for the Congress in the upcoming polls keeping the issue in mind backs this theory.

"We are going to make this Bill an issue in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Since we are a national party and would form a government in the Centre, we are the only party which can scrap this Bill. So, people should vote for us," he said.

Another interpretation is that the Congress fears losing votes in other states like Punjab where there are Hindus and Sikhs.

As per another article published in the DNA, depicting the Congress' dilemma over the issue, "Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge and MPs from states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan have expressed their reluctance over the contentious issue."

Quoting an unnamed source in the Congress, the article further said, "The Bill impacts the entire country, and if the party stands up for the sake of Assam, it will be seen as a party that is coming in the way of Hindus coming back home.”

But APCC president Ripun Bora has an entirely different take on the issue. He says that the party is still working in the Rajya Sabha to create a consensus to oppose the Bill.

While speaking to Firstpost, Bora said, “We satisfied ourselves only by causing the delay in the passage of the Bill this time, because we were not sure how many members of other Opposition parties would support our move to scrap the Bill. By delaying, we just bought time for effective floor management to ensure that the Bill is not passed.”

The Bill is expected to be placed in the Rajya Sabha again during the interim Budget Session of the Parliament which starts on 31 January.

The Bill that amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship has faced tremendous protest across seven states in the North East.

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Updated Date: Jan 10, 2019 23:09:20 IST

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