The Bharatiya Janata Party has asked its MPs to be present in the Parliament in the coming days to ensure the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The legislation proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The party has told its MPs that the bill is as important as the legislation that abrogated Article 370 and members should be present when Home Minister Amit Shah tables it.
A report in The Indian Express said that senior party leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the bill could come up in Parliament next week. The government is expecting that it will be passed before December 10. The Winter Session of the Parliament culminates on December 13.
Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet is expected to clear the bill which has been re-drafted to incorporate changes following concerns expressed by the North-East states today. The Cabinet meeting is scheduled at 9.30 AM.
"BJP MPs must be present in Parliament in large numbers when Amit Shah tables the bill, which is likely to be cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday," he said.
"The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is coming soon. It is very important to get it passed," the IE report quoted Singh telling his party MPs.
Notably, the issue of absenteeism among BJP MPs from Parliament was also raised at the parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday. Singh underlined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dissatisfaction over lack of their adequate presence many times. The meeting was, however, not attended by PM Modi as he was in Jharkhand to campaign for the Assembly elections.
The opposition parties including the Congress and Trinamool Congress are opposing the bill. They have been arguing that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion.
Rejecting the opposition parties’ criticism of the bill, Singh said that the BJP has always "worked to unite the country and its people". He explained that the three neighbouring countries — Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan are Islamic nations and it is non-Muslims and not Muslims who are at the receiving end of religious persecution there.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday held discussions with representatives of students’ bodies and civil society groups of Assam on the bill. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was also present at the meetings.