Calling the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as important as the Article 370 move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today said BJP MPs must be present in large numbers in parliament when the bill is tabled by Home Minister Amit Shah next week. Briefing party MPs at a weekly meeting at parliament, Mr Singh also warned them that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was disappointed by members skipping house.
PM Modi was not present in the meeting but the Defence Minister conveyed the Prime Minister's displeasure at frequent absenteeism by MPs.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Patel also urged MPs to attend house "seriously" as important bills were lined up.
Rejecting the opposition's criticism of the the Citizenship Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there, Rajnath Singh said the BJP has always worked to unite the country and its people.
Sources said Mr Singh also made a reference to the allegation that the bill was against secularism as its beneficiaries excluded Muslims.
He said the three neighbouring countries were essentially Islamic nations, so was non-Muslims and not Muslims who were at the receiving end of religious persecution there.
Asking party MPs to ensure their presence in Parliament, Mr Singh reminded them that the prime minister had from time to time spoken against absenteeism among the parliamentarians but the issue persists. He also cautioned them against using unparliamentary words during their interventions in Parliament and said they should be aggressive in countering the opposition but not go to the extent of what the Congress does.
His remarks came against the backdrop of party MP Pragya Thakur being forced to apologise in Lok Sabha for her comments praising Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse. The BJP has banned her from its parliamentary party meetings during this session.