Riding the CAB
How BJP and Congress will handle the proposed bill post polls
One bill, two parties, myriad possibilities - the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB has been a major point of contention for both the BJP and the Congress, the two main contenders of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It has been used as a campaign agenda by both the parties and might play a major role in deciding who comes to power come May 23rd.
The Bill if passed will amend the Citizenship Act 1955 and make the process of gaining Indian Citizenship easier for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It proposes to relax the norms to apply for citizenship by reducing the 11-year requirement of Indian residency and bring it down to six years for people belonging to the afore-mentioned six religious communities.
Since the past few months, the CAB has become a burning issue in the country and this has been more so in Assam and the Northeast primarily due to the general perception about the presence of a high number of suspected illegal immigrants. Major protests broke out all across the region opposing the proposed bill and these also received support from popular figures, celebrities and intellectuals as well. The protests rose to such a crescendo that even political alliances bore the brunt.
Those opposing the CAB are of the opinion that the passing of the Bill will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, according to which, the cut-off date for deportation of illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion had been set as March 24, 1971. The protests also found voice in the form of Senior student leaders as well as other political parties who are incidentally a part of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
With the LS polls now set to kick off, the BJP has resolved to enact the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill with party members, including Assam chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowala and NEDA convenor, Himanta Biswa Sarma having said that they are firm on the passing of the Bill. This resolve has been reaffirmed by Union minister Rajnath Singh who added that CAB would be passed while protecting the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of the region. Earlier this year, the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8 but was stalled by the Rajya Sabha on February 12. It is now supposed to be tabled in Rajya Sabha in the budget session on June 3, but it will likely lapse as the current term of the Lok Sabha ends before that.
Using this as major leverage against the ruling party, Congress is expectedly has taken the exact opposite route. In their manifesto, the party leaders have mentioned that they will make provisions for the immediate withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill if elected to power. This is one of Congress’ major claims and the party hopes that this will help them gain a strong foothold in the region once again.
This year’s LS polls promises to be an eventful affair and is set to go down to the wire with both parties trying to push their agendas and promises to another level in order to win over the voters and the CAB certainly seems to be one such factor that might swing the odds. However, the general consensus been that neither party seems to be having an upper hand as of now.
While the BJP seemingly failed to deliver on many its promises in the eyes of the voters, the Congress do not seem to have really made up any significant ground since the last polls. This also might turn out to be a poll where regional and allied parties might play a huge role in either of the parties coming to power because the tides have changed. What could have seemed like a piece of cake might also turn out to be a bite too large to swallow!