In New Citizenship Bill Flip-Flop, Shiv Sena Says Its Vote May Change

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: The Sena's latest about-turn - its support to the citizenship bill yesterday was one - comes after questions were raised by the party's new Maharashtra ally Congress

Uddhav Thackeray's party Shiv Sena said it may not vote in the same way in Rajya Sabha

Highlights

  • Sena criticised Citizenship Bill but backed it in Lok Sabha yestreday
  • But Uddhav Thackeray says party's support in Rajya Sabha not certain
  • Government must answer questions raised on bill, he says
Mumbai:

After the Shiv Sena voted to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha last night, party chief Uddhav Thackeray today made it clear that the Sena's support to the bill in the Rajya Sabha is not a given. The Sena, he said, had raised many questions yesterday and "if these queries are not answered, we won't be supporting the CAB in the Rajya Sabha".

The Sena's latest about-turn - its support to the citizenship bill yesterday was one - comes after questions were raised by the party's new Maharashtra ally Congress; Congress MP Rahul Gandhi put out a sharp tweet denouncing supporters of the CAB or Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

"We will not give support to the bill unless things are clear. They (government) should make changes when they bring the bill to the Rajya Sabha," said Uddhav Thackeray, who became Chief Minister of Maharashtra last month with support from the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

"We need to change this perception that those who support the bill and the BJP are patriots and those who oppose it are anti-national. The government should answer all the issues raised on the Bill," Mr Thackeray told reporters in Mumbai.

On why the Sena voted in favour of the bill despite questions, Mr Thackeray said: "We voted yesterday to absorb various people facing brutalities in other countries but we have asked many questions."

"We may not vote the same way we did in the Lok Sabha, it is an evolving situation," added Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, a close aide of Mr Thackeray.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to become Indian citizens. The Congress and other opposition parties have fiercely opposed the bill, alleging that it is discriminatory and goes against the constitutional principles of equality and secularism. It was widely believed that the Sena, after its break-up with the BJP, would vote with the opposition, but that did not happen.

"The #CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation," Rahul Gandhi tweeted, setting up awkwardness between the unlikely allies.

Uddhav Thackeray said in response, "I am not saying anything on what someone else has said. I am only speaking on behalf of my party."

The Sena's support to the CAB in parliament on Monday was surprising after the former BJP ally, in its mouthpiece 'Saamana', criticised the bill as an instrument that could lead to "invisible partition" in India.

The bill, cleared by the Lok Sabha around midnight, will be presented tomorrow in the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority and the arithmetic more challenging. The Shiv Sena has three members in the Rajya Sabha.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, explaining why he had voted in favour of legislation in the Lok Sabha, cited national interest. "We supported the bill in the interest of the nation. The CMP (common minimum programme) is applicable in Maharashtra only," Mr Sawant told NDTV, referring to the understanding that helped the ideologically disparate Sena-NCP-Congress alliance take power in Maharashtra.

The Sena's about-turn in parliament was seized by its critics as a sign of trouble in the Maharashtra alliance, which was weeks in the making while the Congress leadership agonized over compromising its secular image by allying with the pro-Hindutva Sena.

Mr Sawant, the only Sena minister in the Union Cabinet, quit as the party ended its ties with the BJP and turned to the Congress and NCP to form the "Maha Vikas Aghadi". The alliance's CMP or Common Minimum Programme states that the alliance partners "commit to uphold secular values enshrined in the constitution".

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