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‘Secular’ in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena now makes its support to citizenship bill conditional

Shiv Sena supported the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha even as its new allies Congress and NCP termed the proposed law ‘unconstitutional’.

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New Delhi: In a seemingly delicate balancing act, the Shiv Sena Tuesday said it won’t support the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha unless the Narendra Modi government incorporates changes it has asked for.

The move came just a day after it supported the same draft in the Lok Sabha, breaking ranks with its allies NCP and Congress to bring to the fore the ideological faultlines in the recently forged ruling alliance in Maharashtra.

“If… (our) queries are not answered, we won’t be supporting the CAB in the Rajya Sabha. Every party supporting or opposing it, is asking for clarity in national interest. Clarity must be ensured,” party chief and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said in a tweet.

He was referring to the changes in the bill’s draft demanded by Sena MPs in the Lok Sabha, including no voting rights to prospective citizens for a specified period of time.

“There’s a perception that whoever votes with the Central Government is a patriot and who voted against is anti national. We must get out of that illusion.

“We voted yesterday to absorb various people facing brutalities in other countries but we have asked many questions. Those questions we thought would be answered, ranging from national security to rights of locals in various states of India,” said Thackeray.

The Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha Monday, proposes to make non-Muslim illegal migrants of six communities — Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh eligible for Indian citizenship. It is said to be a precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that the Modi government has promised to implement across the country.

The bill is expected to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday. The NDA government doesn’t have a majority in the Upper House.

The latest Sena flip-flop comes amid strain on the new alliance in Maharashtra. On Monday, both the Congress and the NCP opposed the bill in strong words and termed it “unconstitutional” during the fierce debate in the Lower House.

An NCP leader, who didn’t wish to be named, told ThePrint, “Shiv Sena had assured us that they have put certain demands without which they wouldn’t support the bill. Those demands are yet to be met. At the same time, Sena is different party with a different vote-bank and ideology. So their strategy is different too.”

Last month, Sena allied with ‘secular’ NCP and Congress after breaking its decades-old alliance with the BJP over disagreements on government formation in Maharashtra.

Also read: ‘US commission has no locus standi’ — India says criticism of citizenship bill unwarranted

What happened in the Lok Sabha

On Monday, Shiv Sena supported the contentious citizenship bill tabled in the Lok Sabha by Home Minister Amit Shah, despite its reservations on it.

Sena MP Arvind Sawant told ThePrint, “We have not supported the BJP but have supported the Bill which is in the interest of the nation. At the same time, we have made it clear that voting rights (to prospective citizens) should not be given to them for at least a few years.”

He added that the party had opposed a number of bills in public interest even when it was in the NDA. “So, our ideology is quite clear and we work keeping the interest of the nation in mind.”

However, sources told ThePrint that Sena had earlier indicated to the NCP that it would stage a walkout in the Lok Sabha and not support the bill. It had also hinted that it was not planning to support the bill.

In its mouthpiece Saamana Monday, the party had accused the Modi government of bringing an “invisible partition” between Muslims and Hindus through the citizenship bill. It had also cautioned the government of a “religious war” if citizenship rights are granted to illegal Hindu immigrants.

“They had told NCP that they will stage a walkout and not support the bill. What exactly happened and why they changed their mind is something they will discuss,” said a source.

Also read: Without a pan-India NRC, Modi-Shah know Citizenship Bill is nothing but symbolism

Sena politics

Known for its hard Hindutva politics, the Shiv Sena had surprised everyone when it announced a “secular” and “all-inclusive” common minimum programme with the NCP and Congress in Maharashtra last month.

The preamble of the CMP read: “The alliance partners commit to uphold the secular values enshrined in the Constitution. On contentious issues of national importance as well of state importance especially having repercussions/consequences on the secular fabric of the nation, the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress will take a joint view after holding consultations and arriving at a consensus.”

However, Sena is also treading cautiously as its entire politics has revolved around Hindutva ideology. Party founder and former chief Bal Thackeray was quite vocal in his criticism of Bangladeshi migrants who he said had occupied a lot of space in Mumbai.

In 2003, Bal Thackeray had said, “Already Tansa lake which supplies water to the city is depleting. The day the water in this lake is over these Bangladeshis will also disappear from the city. So who will suffer? We the Mumbaikars.”

He had also criticised the then West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya for supporting the Bangladeshis. “If he wants them in West Bengal, let him take all these people over there. We have no problems,” Thackeray had said.

“Their (Sena) stand to support the citizenship bill viewed from that angle seems to be in line with its politics,” added the source quoted above.

Also read: Economy to Citizenship Bill – Accusations pile on PM Modi, but he could not care less


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  1. Shiv Sena is trying to ride on two boats, that of Modi-Shah version of Hindutva, and Secularism. It will invite ridicule this way as an ideologically confused and weak party. If at this juncture the congress and NCP withdraw support, SS will be finished as a credible political party. So SS should quickly take a major decision, and should just as quickly announce it, that it believes in SOFT HINDUTVA.

  2. The stakes are too high for the three coalition partners to allow it to founder on something as remote from the day to day concerns of ordinary Maharashtrians as the CAB. So long as the shared promises contained in the CMP are respected, there are bound to be issues associated with ideology where the three parties may retain their different points of view. A formal coordination mechanism would help.

    • No. The number of illegal Bangladeshis in Mumbai and other cities and towns of Maharashtra make it very relevant.

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