New Delhi: Janata Dal (United) leader Pavan Varma has called the Citizenship (Amendment) Act “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory” and said his position in the party, which voted for the bill in Parliament, was “untenable”.
“Unless Nitish Kumar comes out and says he condemns the Citizenship Amendment Act and refuses to implement it, I can’t change my mind,” Varma told ThePrint when asked if he is likely to resign.
Varma also came own heavily on ally BJP, saying that although people had voted for it, they do have a right to question the party.
“The party manifesto cannot become the constitution of the country, irrespective of consequences. I may vote for you but I retain the right to question some of your decisions.”
Varma, a former Rajya Sabha MP and national spokesperson of the JD(U), had openly criticised his party’s stand over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and written a social media post asking Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to reconsider his stance.
The JD(U), an NDA ally, had supported the contentious new citizenship law in both Houses of Parliament, which proposes citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants.
The move had evoked sharp criticism from Varma as well as party vice-president Prashant Kishor, who had also taken to social media to express his displeasure over it.
Kishor had a meeting with Nitish Kumar on 14 December following which he told the media the CM had assured him that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise will not be implemented in Bihar. However, Nitish Kumar has officially not said anything on the matter so far.
“Both Prashant Kishore and I have strong opinions, views on the Citizenship Amendment Act, and when it was still a bill, I spoke to Mr Nitish Kumar that this bill is unconstitutional, it is undemocratic, it is discriminatory, it’s against the social harmony and peace in the country and, above all, it is against our own party’s constitution. Therefore, it would be wrong for the party to support this bill,” Varma told ThePrint.
‘Can’t accept party volte-face’
He said Nitish Kumar was also opposed to the bill, until a few months back.
“He had told us why he opposes the bill, especially keeping in mind the sentiments of the Northeast. This complete volte-face on the part of the party was something that my conscience, my zameer, vivek could not accept,” Varma added.
“And I first spoke to Mr Nitish Kumar personally to try and convince him, and when that failed, I made a public tweet appealing to him to reconsider the party’s stand to support the bill in Parliament. The party went ahead and supported it. This is something that does not have my support.”
Varma also said that if he is required to resign from the party over this, he will.
“I continue as a conscientious objector to both the CAA and the NRC. They are two faces of the same coin, they are conjoined at the hip. They must be seen hyphenated,” he said.
“The CAA and NRC together are a recipe for endemic turmoil, instability, turbulence, discord and acrimony in society, apart from being communal and discriminatory. Therefore, I will continue to oppose it. If I am required to resign from my party I will.”
‘Focus on economy’
The former Rajya Sabha MP said the Modi government needs to focus on the right priorities, especially the economy.
“The bill is being opposed across the country. This attempt to portray it as somehow representing only one community is wrong, the reason for it is very simple. Hindus believe that such measures are not in their interest. They, like all Indians, don’t like endemic and perennial instability of discord in society, of a breakdown of social harmony. We are in an economic tailspin, the government needs to focus on the right priorities.”
Accusing some in the BJP of using this opportunity to create a communal divide for “electoral dividends”, Varma said, something like this has happened in the past but will not be successful this time.