All eyes now are on the Rajya Sabha which will adjourn on February 13 following which the Lok Sabha polls will be held in April-May this year. For the North Eastern states the Rajya Sabha will decide whether the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016, is passed or checkmated. Currently, in the House of 245 members, the BJP and its allies in the NDA which comprise the Shiromani Akali Dal, Janata Dal(U) and other smaller parties has 86 MPs, after the Shiv Sena with 3 MPs broke off ties with the NDA. The other political parties including the Congress with 50 MPs and others with smaller numbers that have formed the Mahagatbandhan to fight the BJP has 159 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. So clearly if these 159 MPs stand united there is no way the CAB will be passed. But during the passage of many contentious Bills there have been slips between the cup and the lip.
The BJP is very keen to pass the CAB which would give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists who are persecuted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Those against the CAB contest it on the basis of India’s secular credentials and wonder why citizenship should be granted on the basis of religion when the architects of this country’s Constitution had envisaged a nation that would be secular and not be defined by any religion.
What is evident is the vote-bank politics of the BJP and its Hindutva agenda of turning the country into a Hindustan or the land of the Hindus. Apologists for the CAB point to the fact that many Hindus were left behind in Pakistan, Afghanistan and former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh and that the BJP owes it to them to grant them entry into the country of their faith, more so because they are persecuted for being Hindus in these countries. The counter argument is that while Afghanistan and Pakistan may be Islamic nations, Bangladesh is a secular Muslim majority country. There are about 17 million Hindus in Bangladesh with close kin in Assam, Meghalaya et al. The population of the North Eastern states is just 45 million (4.5 crore). If the 17 million are given citizenship in India over a period of time they will overwhelm the local tribal population of which Tripura is a case in point. Hence the stiff opposition to CAB! It remains to be seen if the united opposition can defeat the NDA.