- Mamata Banerjee declared last week she would not attend the meet
- Mayawati too skipped the meeting
- The meet comes in backdrop of student protests, citizenship law
Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati are skipping a meeting called by the Congress this afternoon to discuss protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the citizenship list NRC, in a big blow to opposition unity. Arvind Kejriwal also stayed away; the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was reportedly not invited.
Mamata Banerjee declared on Friday that she would not attend the opposition meeting, referring to clashes during last week's trade union strike when workers of the Left allegedly attacked those of her Trinamool Congress to enforce the shutdown.
The Bengal Chief Minister stressed she was compelled to take the step even though such a meeting of opposition parties was her suggestion.
"What happened yesterday in the state (during the labour strike) -- it is no more possible for me to attend the meeting anymore. I was the first to launch an andolan (movement) against CAA, NRC," she said. "What the Left and the Congress are doing in the name of the CAA-NRC is not a movement but vandalism".
The meeting, convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was attended by leaders of opposition parties like Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Sharad Yadav, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, besides Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present.
Mayawati made it clear that she would not attend any meeting called by the Congress after all six MLAs of her BSP in Rajasthan joined the party last September.
"Even though BSP was supporting the Congress government in Rajasthan, they betrayed us by taking away our MLAs. In such a situation, the BSP attending the opposition meeting led by the Congress will demoralise the party workers in Rajasthan," Mayawati tweeted in Hindi this morning.
Mayawati had also attacked the Congress's Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in recent days over the baby deaths at a hospital in Rajasthan's Kota. She said if the "woman general secretary of the Congress" would not visit Kota to meet the mothers who lost their children, then her meetings with families of victims of police firing during CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh will be considered for "political interest and drama".
AAP's Sanjay Singh said: "We have no information about any such meeting. So, it makes no sense to attend a meeting we have no information about."
On Saturday, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi termed the citizenship law a "discriminatory and divisive" law whose "sinister" purpose was to divide people on religious lines. "The CAA is a discriminatory and divisive law. The sinister purpose of the law is clear to every patriotic, tolerant and secular Indian: it is to divide the Indian people on religious lines," she said at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee or CWC - the top decision-making body of the party - in Delhi. The party demanded immediate withdrawal of the CAA and stopping the process of the NPR.
The opposition's struggle to put up a united show in protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act and the citizenship law comes at a time protests have erupted in many campuses across the country, with the civil society and political parties joining in.
The BJP has repeatedly accused the Congress of engineering the violence that took place during some of the protests.
Several Chief Ministers, including Mamata Banerjee, and those in the Congress-ruled states, have said they would not allow the CAA or the NRC in their states.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act says Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains can become Indian citizens easily if they fled religious persecution in Muslim-dominated neighbours Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It is the first law to make religion a criterion for citizenship. Critics fear the citizenship law, along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), will be used as twin tools to target Muslims.