The smooth passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha has not come as a surprise to many. However, what has indeed come as a surprise is the support which the legislation has garnered cutting across party lines. Parties both within the ambit of the NDA and the opposition have supported the BJP in its bid to bring in CAB.
The Union Cabinet gave its nod to CAB on the 4th of December. This effectively gave the BJP almost a week to garner support for itself from various parties. Top leaders of the BJP held hectic parleys with the top leadership of many parties to support this bill. As a result, various parties like the AIADMK, Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, BJD, YSRCP, JD(U), NPP, NDPP, NPF, MNF among others have supported the bill. We examine the possible reasons behind these parties throwing their weight behind this legislation.
AIADMK: The Tamil Nadu based AIADMK is a member of the NDA and hence it was only expected that they would support the BJP. Moreover, the AIADMK is not really in a position to flex its muscles. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK is on a strong footing, as was evident from the Lok Sabha results in May. As such, the BJP is a crucial partner for the AIADMK.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD): The Akali Dal has been a vociferous supporter of CAB ever since it was conceived as an idea. Being a party concerned with the welfare of Sikhs, it has wholeheartedly welcomed the idea of granting citizenship to persecuted Sikhs from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, SAD is one of the oldest allies of the BJP.
Shiv Sena: Even though the BJP and Shiv Sena have had a rather publicized breakup only recently following Sena’s political betrayal in Maharashtra, it has supported the CAB. Shiv Sena had previously, while still in the NDA, strongly supported the bill. Therefore, to make a U-turn on the issue now would hurt their already dented image of being an ideologically Hindutva party. This despite the fact that the party is being immensely pressurised by the Congress and NCP to not support the legislation. As a result, Uddhav Thackeray today stated that they would be rethinking their position on the bill, and would support it only if their ‘concerns’ are addressed by the Home Minster.
Biju Janata Dal (BJD): Naveen Patanaik’s BJD too has supported the bill. Over the years, BJD has immensely improved its relations with the BJP, and the party is in the good books of the BJP’s top leadership. Perceivably a neutral party, the BJD always looks to stand for legislations in national interest. Although it is not a member of the NDA, the party has always been upfront in supporting the BJP on issues of national importance.
YSRCP: Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP is not a member of the NDA, yet, it supports the BJP on crucial pieces of legislation. Moreover, Jagan Mohan Reddy shares an impeccable personal equation with PM Modi. Also, Andhra Pradesh requires financial assistance from the Centre from time-to-time. As such, it was only prudent for Reddy to support the BJP on CAB and win its goodwill.
JD(U): The Janata Dal United headed by Nitish Kumar is a member of NDA. Although Nitish has occasionally played with the BJP and also broken the alliance multiple times, Nitish Kumar has now understood the importance of BJP in Bihar. He knows that his party is not capable of fighting a three-way contest in Bihar between BJP, RJD and themselves. Therefore, to consolidate the existing alliance, JD(U) has decided to support the bill. Although it earlier had a different take on the issue, by Sunday the party confirmed its support.
North East: The BJP has successfully knit several anti-Congress parties in northeast under an umbrella political alliance called the North Eastern Democratic Alliance. Himanta Biswa Sarma played a huge role in winning the support of all such parties. The National People’s Party, headed by Conrad Sangma supported the bill after much of Northeast was exempted from the purview of the bill. Party MP Agatha Sangma has voiced her support for the bill. Similarly, NDPP from Nagaland and MNF from Mizoram supported the bill too. The BJP has majority governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Assam. As such, there was no real opposition from the first three states. Assam however is reeling under severe protests and demonstrations against CAB. In fact, an 11-hour bandh was called by North East Students Organization (NESO) on Tuesday. The region witnessed heavy, and even violent protests. Assam is facing severe protests as much of it’s area is not insulated by the 6th Schedule. As such, large tracks of the state are not exempt from CAB. For this very reason, AASU and other student outfits are vehemently protesting the legislation.
All said and done, the BJP has successfully garnered the support of many parties which would otherwise vote against them in order to please their own vote banks. However, that all such parties have risen above their petty political compulsions and voted in national interest speaks volumes about the healthy democracy that India is.