Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Shiv Sena Says Its Vote May Change In Rajya Sabha

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Shiv Sena Says Its Vote May Change In Rajya Sabha

New Delhi:  After the Shiv Sena supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha last night, party chief Uddhav Thackeray today made it clear that Sena's support to the bill in the Rajya Sabha is not a given. This comes after questions from the party's new Maharashtra ally, with Congress's Rahul Gandhi putting out a sharp tweet denouncing supporters of the bill.
"We will not give support to the Bill (Citizenship Amendment Bill) unless things are clear. We haven't got answers to questions we asked in Lok Sabha yesterday," said Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who became Chief Minister of Maharashtra last month with support from the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

"They (government) should make changes when they bring the bill to Rajya Sabha," Mr Thackeray told reporters in Mumbai.

"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. This is the latest in Sena's flip flop on the CAB, short for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

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The comments followed Rahul Gandhi's tweet on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which 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.

"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 a measure of awkwardness between the unlikely allies.

Uddhav Thackeray, responded to the tweet saying, "I am not saying anything on what someone else has said. I am only speaking on behalf of my party."

"We need to change this notion that one who supports the Bill and the BJP is a patriot and one who opposes it is anti-national. The government should answer all the issues raised on the Bill," he said.

The Sena's support to the CAB in parliament was surprising to many after the party in its mouthpiece 'Saamana' criticised the bill as an instrument that could lead to an "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.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant had a different response from Mr Thackeray on whether the party would back the bill in the Rajya Sabha too. "Do we have different roles? Shiv Sena stands with the national interest, it is no one's monopoly," Mr Sawant had said.

The Shiv Sena has three members in the Rajya Sabha, where every vote counts.

"We supported the bill in the interest of the nation. The CMP (common minimum programme) is applicable in Maharashtra only," Mr Sawant told media, 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 as 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 upholding secular values enshrined in the constitution.

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