In run up to Delhi polls, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP prepares for the CAA twist
While AAP had decided to focus exclusively on its governance agenda, the protests in Delhi have forced it to factor in the Citizenship Amendment Act as an issue.Updated: Dec 19, 2019 15:56 IST
Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is grappling to understand the possible impact of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on the assembly elections early next year, party leaders said. This is coupled with a degree of uncertainty on the nature and intensity of its own response to the issue, they added.
The deliberations within the party over the issue have coincided with protests against the law that have rocked the national capital since last week. Dozens of people were detained on Thursday as they began gathering for a fresh round of protests against the law near the Red Fort. They defied a ban on public gatherings in parts of Delhi that the authorities have imposed on them citing law and order issues following protests earlier in the week.
While AAP had decided to focus exclusively on its governance agenda, the protests have forced it to factor in the CAA as an issue. Protests are no longer confined to university campuses like Jamia Millia Islamia, where scores were injured when police stormed its campus and fired tear gas and used batons to break up a students’ protest on Sunday. A large number of residents, especially of the Muslim-majority areas, have since taken to the streets.
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A functionary of the AAP, which swept back to power in 2015 winning 67 out of the 70 assembly seats, said that the first indication of the party’s position came when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took a clear stand on the issue during a News18 India event on Wednesday.
Kejriwal questioned the “logic of the law” and called it “dangerous”, especially because it has been introduced at a time when the country is going through an economic slowdown. “With this law, around 3-4 crore [30-40 million] migrants can arrive from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Where will you [central government] rehabilitate them? How will you give them jobs when our own children do not have any?”
The AAP’s lone Lok Sabha and three Rajya Sabha members voted against the amended citizenship legislation this month.
Kejriwal, who articulated his position on the issue for the first time at the News18 India event, refrained from elaborating on the religious aspect of the law.
The CAA aims to grants citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jains, who have entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before December 31, 2014. Critics of the law say that it is unconstitutional because it links faith to citizenship and is discriminatory that damages India’s secular fabric.
Another AAP leader, who did not wish to be identified, called Kejriwal’s measured response a good strategy. “But we are yet to decide how we will take it forward.”
AAP’s national spokesman, Saurabh Bharadwaj, insisted they have seen how such discussions over national issues affect Lok Sabha and not the assembly polls in Delhi. “By and large, the elections in Delhi will be contested over local issues—roads, electricity, water, sewer, education, health. There is no doubt about that.”