"Have To Implement": Rajasthan Speaker On Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Opposing CAA

Assembly Speaker CP Joshi's statement was welcomed by Rajasthan BJP President Satish Poonia, who "congratulate(d) CP Joshi-ji" for supporting the citizenship law

Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi spoke on the state's opposition to the Citizenship Amednment Act

Jaipur:

Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi has complicated matters for the state's Congress government, and set up a potential clash with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, after making comments that appear to contradict the latter's position on the citizenship law. On Friday, while addressing an awards ceremony at a college in Udaipur, Mr Joshi said the state could not oppose implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act because citizenship itself is a central subject.

"Under the Constitution, citizenship is a subject of the Centre and not of the State. The (state) governments will have to implement it as they can legislate only on certain matters... citizenship is a central subject and states can (at most) legislate on subjects on the concurrent list," Mr Joshi, a senior Congress leader and former Union Minister, said.

Mr Joshi's statement was swiftly welcomed by Rajasthan BJP President Satish Poonia, who told news agency ANI that he "congratulate(d) CP Joshi-ji" for supporting the CAA.

CP Joshi, who presided over the Assembly session in which the resolution was passed, isn't the first Congress leader to cast doubts over non-BJP states' ability to oppose the citizenship law.

Last month Kapil Sibal, speaking on the sidelines of a literary summit in Kerala, said: "Constitutionally, it would be difficult for any government to say that 'I will not follow a law passed by parliament'".

Mr Sibal subsequently clarified his comment, calling the CAA "unconstitutional" and saying every state had the right to pass a resolution and seek its withdrawal.

In response to Mr Sibal's statement (and others like it), Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said states had the right to disagree over implementation of the citizenship law and could not be "forced" to implement it.

Last month Rajasthan became the third state, after Kerala and Punjab, to pass a resolution against the CAA, a controversial law that has triggered widespread protests and been fiercely criticised by a number of opposition leaders, including Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The resolution urges the centre to repeal the law amid countrywide protests.

Chief Minister Gehlot, one of the Congress's more outspoken anti-CAA voices, has repeatedly declared his government will not implement the law, as it violates basic principles of the Constitution and allows the BJP to "divide the country on religious lines".

"This (the CAA and the NRC) is RSS agenda that they want to implement. In Rajasthan, the CAA and the NRC will not be implemented as they are against the basic principles of the Constitution," Mr Gehlot said at a "satyagraha for unity" organised by the Congress at Delhi's Rajghat in December.

There are a whopping 144 petitions on the CAA pending before the Supreme Court; the top court last month refused to stay the law, giving the centre four weeks to respond to them.

In addition to Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab, Bengal has also passed an anti-CAA resolution. A third Congress-ruled state - Chhattisgarh - is expected to pass a similar motion in its Assembly.

The government says that the CAA, which makes religion a test of citizenship for the first time, helps non-Muslim minorities from Muslim-majority countries if they fled religious persecution and entered India before December 31, 2014.

However, critics believe the CAA discriminates against Muslims, violates secular tenets of the Constitution and, with the NRC (national register of citizens) and NPR (national population register), can be used to target Muslims.

With input from ANI, IANS