The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) recently passed by Parliament has sparked stiff resistance by governments in Opposition-ruled states such as Punjab, Kerala and West Bengal. While some states have already declared that they will not implement the law, some have challenged its validity in the Supreme Court. Some of BJP’s own allies such as JD(U) and SAD have expressed apprehensions regarding the law. However, BJP national vice president Baijayant Jay Panda says there is a difference between a party’s political stand and defying the Constitution on the ground. In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, Panda draws the line between what he terms as "political posturing" and the law of the land.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
Opposition parties have refused to implement the amended citizenship law in states under their rule. How are you going to implement this law?
Yesterday (Saturday), Kapil Sibal made it very clear that in our constitutional set up, it (citizenship) is part of our union list and states really cannot object to it. Jairam Ramesh has also made a similar comment. This is clear to everybody. Some leaders were making irresponsible statements, partly because of political reasons and partly maybe they don’t understand the legality and Constitution.
But that is on the legal part and you will have to wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling…
No. We don’t have to wait for the Supreme Court ruling. Because when Parliament has passed an act and the President has signed it, that is the law of the land.
But some states are saying they won’t implement it as they have gone to the Supreme Court.
Two states in the past have gone to the Supreme Court on similar issues - in one case, the Supreme Court made a comment that simply admitting a case does not mean it has merit. Just because they have gone to the Supreme Court does not mean they can stop it. If the Supreme Court gives some ruling, that’s a different matter. I don’t know why people are making such illogical stands.
Even Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has said that he will wait for the Supreme Court ruling
These are political stands. Uddhav ji may have his own political compulsions because of the unusual alliance into which his party has entered. I think it is just political posturing and I don’t think we should take it very seriously. The law of the land is very clear – when Parliament has approved and the President signed it, then that is the law as of today.
But the reality is also that some states have already declared that they won’t implement it unless the Supreme Court decides on it. Then how are you going to implement it?
There are constitutional ways of enforcing laws and everybody is aware of how it can be done.
I’m asking this because Uttar Pradesh has already started the process of identifying the refugees. It has already identified over 50,000 refugees. But other states have not even started the process. So what will Centre do where the chief ministers are against the law?
People say a lot of things for political posturing which you should not take so seriously. No chief minister can any more stop union law. Can they stop income tax? Can they say that we are not happy with the share coming to the states that is why we will stop income tax collection or we will stop GST collection? It’s not constitutional, they cannot do it. You are getting confused between the posturing and law of the land.
On a slightly related matter, National Population Register, it has happened so many times. It’s a natural part of the process having the Census. NPR was announced some weeks ago. You had the same kind of statements from many states. Exactly similar that we are against it, we will not do it. Only yesterday, the newspapers have reported that all except two states have started the process including the states who said that they would not do it. So saying one thing for political posturing is quite different from actually defying the Constitution.
Even in NPR, the people who will go to collect information will be state officials. But if the states say that they won’t deploy their officials to collect the details, how can the Centre implement the law?
They have postured on NPR also but what are they actually doing - they have gone ahead and are doing it. So, I don’t expect any chief minister to actually defy the Constitution on the ground. They can announce what they want but the constitutional provision will not wait.
The opposition has also accused the government of distracting people from the economic slowdown by taking up issues such as Article 370, Triple Talaq, Ayodhya and now CAA. What do you have to say about this?
It is an attempt by some frustrated politicians to try to distract the situation. Because all these items have been on our agenda for a very long time. For instance, the first such legislation was Triple Talaq. Is it a new thing? Triple talaq has been discussed for many decades. In fact, the ordinance was brought in when the economy was doing quite well. Look at Article 370, this was very clear in our manifesto. The BJP has been saying that when we will have a majority in parliament we will remove Article 370. And not only BJP, but most political parties have also taken this stand in the past. They have not done it either for hypocrisy or they lacked political will. The Supreme Court decided the Ayodhya matter, we have nothing to do with it. It’s silly to even bring Ayodhya judgment as if that was for a distraction from the economy. It was going on for decades. NPR happens every ten years. Now it’s a very bizarre allegation to say that something happening - which is supposed to happen - to distract the people from the economy.