Political expedience guiding regional parties from Andhra, Telangana on CAB
While YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh and Telugu Desam Party have voted in favour of the Bill, Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Telangana has opposed the Bill.

Political expedience guiding regional parties from Andhra, Telangana on CAB

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Political considerations, rather than ideological conviction, appear to have guided the voting pattern of the regional parties of the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha.

Both the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh, headed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, and the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), led by N Chandrababu Naidu, have voted in favour of the Bill that seeks to amend the six-decade-old law to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

This was a rare instance of convergence of viewpoints between the two rival parties.

However, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana has opposed the Bill and voted against it along with other opposition parties.

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

The All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), an ally of TRS and a formidable political force in Hyderabad, has been the most vociferous opponent of the Bill, dubbing it as an affront on the basic tenets of the Constitution.

All the three regional parties kept their cards close to the chest till the voting on the Bill was taken up in the House.

Political signalling

By supporting the NDA government on the crucial legislation, the YSRCP and TDP have sent a not-so-subtle message that they are warming up to the BJP, though for different reasons.

While Jagan is keen on maintaining cordial relations with the BJP leadership in view of the CBI case hanging over his head, his bête noire Chandrababu Naidu is preparing to revive alliance with the saffron party to take on the YSRCP and arrest further marginalisation of his party in Andhra.

Last month, a Special CBI Court in Hyderabad had dismissed Jagan’s petition for exemption from personal appearance before the court during the hearing of the alleged disproportionate assets case against him. The Chief Minister desperately needs help from the BJP leadership, not just in bailing him out of the CBI case but also in getting liberal assistance from the Centre to fund his populist schemes.

After walking out of the NDA in May last year over the issue of special category status for Andhra Pradesh, Naidu is now regretting his decision in the wake of steady desertions from his party. A vindictive YSRCP government has been going after the opposition leaders with a streak of ruthlessness that was never seen in the past. As a result, the TDP is being increasingly pushed to the wall.

The TRS, on the other hand, is mindful of the “genuine concerns” of Muslim community, which forms 13% of the state’s population, and has fashioned its strategy on the CAB accordingly. Besides, it does not want to antagonise its ally AIMIM which has steadfastly supported the ruling party on key issues and stood by the government in difficult situations including during the recent strike by the employees of the state road transport corporation.

After supporting the Centre on several key issues in the past, including the abrogation of Article 370 and amendment to RTI Act, the TRS has, for the first time, issued a whip to its MPs to vote against the CAB in the Lower House.

“The coming municipal elections in the state where Muslim votes become key to the outcome in several urban bodies must have influenced the TRS’ decision to oppose the bill,” said a political analyst S Ramakrishna.

Also read | CAB fallout: Protests rock Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura

Moreover, the TRS now considers BJP as its principal political adversary in the state after the near-decimation of the Congress. Of late, the ruling party has been publicly voicing its concern over the alleged “political bias” of the NDA government in allocation of funds and granting new projects to the non-BJP ruled States.

On its part, the saffron party considers Telangana as a “low-hanging fruit” as part of its “Look South” mission to expand its footprint in the Southern States. It has vowed to capture power in the country’s youngest State in the 2023 assembly elections. The war of words between the leaders of the two parties has been intensifying on a plethora of state issues.

Remove anti-Muslim bias

During the debate in the Lok Sabha, the TRS floor leader N Nageshwar Rao strongly opposed the CAB, saying it militates against the spirit of the Constitution and the secular values. “The bill would be acceptable to his party only if the bias against Muslims is removed,” he said.

“This bill proposes to grant citizenship on religious lines, which is against the core of Indian Constitution. This is neither acceptable for the largest democracy of the world nor desirable for our multi-cultural, multi-language and pluralistic society,” Rao said.

The TRS has nine members in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha. In the 16th Lok Sabha, when the earlier version of the bill was moved in January last, the TRS MPs had staged a walkout in protest.

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