RS votes against sending Citizenship Bill to select panel
The Bill has sparked widespread protests across the country, especially in the north-eastern states. Photo: PTI

RS votes against sending Citizenship Bill to select panel

After an intense debate lasting for over six hours, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday voted against sending the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 to the select committee.

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Responding to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “had this bill come earlier, things would have been different.”

“If this bill was brought 50 years ago, then the situation had not been so severe today. We are here to solve the issues of the country,” he adds.

Taking part in the discussion of the bill, Prasanna Acharya of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Wednesday (December 11) said, their party supports the bill but want certain amendments including Sri Lanka.

“Our stand is the same as was in Lok Sabha. We are supporting the bill but we want certain amendments in the bill like including Sri Lanka in it,” Prasanna Acharya said.

Congress leader P Chidambaram asserted that it was a sad day since elected Parliamentarians are being asked to do something unconstitutional.

Opposing the bill and taking a dig at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, Chidambaram said, the bill will be challenged in the Supreme Court if it passes in the Parliament.

“It’s a sad day that elected Parliamentarians are being asked to do something unconstitutional. The Bill is patently unconstitutional. Government says 130 crore people are supporting them, but the entire northeast is in flames. This Bill will be challenged in the Supreme Court if it passes in the Parliament. I am absolutely certain that the judges of SC will strike it down,” he said.

Home Minister Amit Shah moved the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha, saying Indian Muslims “were, are and will remain Indian citizens”.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, on Monday (December 9) night after a stormy debate.

Even though the BJP-led NDA government, buoyed by its absolute majority, managed to pass the Bill in the lower house by securing 311 votes, getting it cleared in Rajya Sabha may be a tricky affair.

Reacting to the protests by Opposition parties to the Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the BJP’s parliamentary party earlier in the day, said the Opposition was speaking the same language as Pakistan.

“The population of minorities in these countries has reduced by as much as 20 per cent, either by way of elimination or because they migrated to India,” he said, adding that these migrants did not get rights to jobs and education. The bill provides citizenship to these persecuted minorities, Shah added.

Earlier, Derek O Brien of TMC said, “BJP is based on three Js – Jhoot Jhaansa Jumla. In the last 5 years, 2 crore people have lost their job. NRC did not work in Assam, your pilot project failed and now you want to introduce this is 27 states. Home Minister says that there is nothing to worry about, during demonetisation PM says give me 30 days for this to work or else burn me, but today no one speaks of demonetisation. This government is very good at making promises, it is even better at breaking promises. The PM said that it will be written on golden letters. I will tell you where it will be written – on Jinnah’s grave.”

For the passage of the Bill in the upper house, the saffron party may have to bank on non-NDA and non-UPA parties like Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), All Indian Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD). The three parties have two, eleven and seven votes, respectively.

Regional political outfits like Uttar Pradesh’s Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) have refused to support the Bill.

Also read: Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Amendment Bill after heated debate

The BJP has issued a whip to all its Rajya Sabha members to be present in the House on Wednesday.

The NDA that includes parties like Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Janata Dal (United), and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has 116 members in the House whose current strength is 240. As the NDA needs to reach the majority mark of 121, it has top garner the support of 14 other MPs. This includes MPs from parties like BJD, YSRCP and TDP.

The Shiv Sena, which recently severed its ties with the NDA government, but voted in favour of the Bill in the Lok Sabha, may not support it in the Upper House.

On the other hand, the Congress-led UPA, which has 64 members expects the support of 46 others like the TMC, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Samajwadi Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), taking the count to 110, according to NDTV.

Also read: Citizenship bill as important as Article 370 abrogation: Rajnath at BJP meeting

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 9, after 311 MPs voted in favour of the Bill and 80 voted against it.

The Bill has been vehemently opposed by the Opposition parties who have called it unconstitutional as it seeks to provide citizenship on the basis of religion, which, they say, is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality to all Indian citizens.

The passage of the bill in the lower house of Parliament, has sparked widespread protests in north-eastern states of the country, especially in Tripura and Assam, which are not shielded from the purview of the Bill by the Inner Line Permit, unlike the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur.

According to the Bill, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship.

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