- After criticising government, Sena backs Citizenship (Amendment) Bill
- Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi thanks Shiv Sena
- Did it in best interest of the nation, says Sena MP Arvind Sawant
Hours after the Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece 'Saamana' criticised the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as an instrument that could lead to an "invisible partition" in India, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party in an about-turn supported the government in passing the bill in the Lok Sabha.
"We supported the bill in the interest of the nation. The CMP (common minimum programme) is applicable in Maharashtra only," Sena MP Arvind Sawant told NDTV, referring to the understanding that helped the ideologically disparate Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance take power in Maharashtra.
Mr Sawant, the only Sena minister in the Union Cabinet, quit the central government as the party strived to show to its commitment to a new combine with ideological opposites Congress and Sharad Pawar's NCP. The CMP is what glues the new "Maha Vikas Aghadi" combine together in Maharashtra after the BJP - the Sena's former ally - could not gather the number to form government.
The common programme states that alliance partners "commit to uphold secular values enshrined in the constitution.
The Sena's about-turn in parliament was seized by its critics as a sign that the Maharashtra alliance will not last long.
During the debate in the Lok Sabha, the Sena accused the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of attempting an "invisible partition" of Hindus and Muslims. In a sharp editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana, the Shiv Sena has also questioned whether "selective acceptance" of Hindu illegal immigrants will act as a trigger for a religious war in the country.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha after seven hours of heated discussions on Monday, with 311 voting in support and 80 against. Home Minister Amit Shah rejected the opposition's claim that it violates the Constitution's core principles of equality. He said the proposed law was not even "0.001% against India's minorities".
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi welcomed the support by Shiv Sena in the eleventh hour. "I am thankful to them. They have realised that it is in the best interest of the nation that they have supported it. As far as we are concerned, I had appealed to all the parties to support the government," he said.
On whether this thaw could be seen again in Maharashtra, Mr Joshi said, "That's a question you have to ask them (Sena)."
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend a six-decade-old law to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to become Indian citizens. Many opposition parties call the proposed law discriminatory and allege that it is contrary to the basic tenet of secularism enshrined in the constitution of India.