Patna: Janata Dal (United)’s support to the Citizenship Amendment Act in Parliament has developed more cracks in the party with some leaders now saying that they are finding it tough to defend its stand on the contentious legislation.
The Act seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha after hours of intense debate Monday and in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday.
According to some JD(U) leaders, the party’s support to the Act has virtually put a full stop to its efforts to woo Muslim voters away from the RJD.
Even leaders belonging to the minority community, who are sympathetic to Nitish Kumar, will find it difficult to defend the JD(U) before their community, said a JD(U) leader, who didn’t want to be named.
“That is why a leader like (party MLC) Gulam Rasool Balyawi is criticising the JD(U) leadership,” said a JD(U) minister.
Balyawi was spotted raising slogans in Patna Friday against the Act at a protest rally. He has also urged the chief minister to reconsider his decision.
In 2015, Nitish Kumar had sought to be an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Today the same Nitish Kumar is competing with Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan to follow the diktats of PM Modi,” said a second JD(U) leader.
‘If anyone has a problem with JD(U) stand, can leave’
Earlier, JD(U) vice-president and election strategist Prashant Kishor and former Rajya Sabha MP Pavan Varma had spoken out against the party for supporting the Act.
Kishor even reminded the JD(U) of its 2015 victory, saying the party should spare “a moment for all those who reposed their faith and trust in it”. Varma, meanwhile, had asked Nitish Kumar to reconsider his decision.
In the 2015 elections, Muslims — who make up 16 per cent of the state’s population — had voted overwhelmingly for the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan, resulting in the grand alliance winning 179 of the 243 seats.
Taking note of Kishor’s remarks, JD(U) minister Neeraj Kumar told ThePrint, “What is the contribution of Kishor? His work does not reflect on the votes the party gets.”
Some JD(U) leaders also said that Kishor has “lost interest” in Bihar and has, therefore, moved away to work for parties, which are opposed to the citizenship Act.
A close confidante of Nitish Kumar, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint that if anyone has a problem with the party’s stand on the citizenship Act, “they are free to leave the party”. He further said that those opposing the Act have not read the draft of the bill properly.
RJD calls for Bihar bandh
The main opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has given a call for ‘Bihar bandh’ on 21 December, appealing to all democratic and secular forces to support it.
“The bandh call has been given to protest against the anti-democratic and black law Citizenship Amendment Act. I will appeal to all democratic and secular forces — both political and non-political — to support the bandh,” said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav in a statement Saturday.
Yadav also took potshots at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, saying he has entered a “rat’s hole” by supporting the bill in Parliament. “Nitish Kumar should make a public statement clarifying his stand,” said Yadav.
The Congress and the RJD have been staging dharnas and protests marches against the Act, calling it anti-Muslim and against the Constitution.
“We have picked up the issue to strip Nitish Kumar of the pretensions he puts up of being secular and a benefactor of the Muslim community,” said RJD MLA Bhai Birendar.