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Home / India News / With passage of citizenship bill, BJP pulls off another RS coup without a majority

With passage of citizenship bill, BJP pulls off another RS coup without a majority

BJP’s winning streak continued with the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that faced a determined opposition closing ranks in both houses of Parliament.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2019 09:56 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Parliament House is illuminated in different colours as the Citizen Amendment Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, in New Delhi on December 11, 2019.
The Parliament House is illuminated in different colours as the Citizen Amendment Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, in New Delhi on December 11, 2019.(Sanjeev Verma/ HT Photo)
         

A little over six months after returning to power at the Centre with an unprecedented majority, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has been able to fulfil three longstanding promises that were part of its election manifestos over the years and anchored in the ideological foundations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its mentor.

The first big accomplishment for the government was the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill, which criminalised the Muslim practice of instant divorce and made it punishable with a three-year prison term; the opposition criticised it for specifically targeting the Muslims.

Soon after its passage on July 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the move and said “an archaic and medieval practice” had finally been “confined to the dustbin of history”. He tweeted that by abolishing Triple Talaq, Parliament had corrected “a historical wrong done to Muslim women” and this “is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society.” The passage of the Bill was seen as a precursor to the demand for a Uniform Civil Code, which is still in the works.

In August, the government was feted by its supporters for fulfilling a demand that has been pending for over six decades -- the revocation of Article 370 that conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir and accorded it autonomy in matters other than defence, foreign affairs and communications. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union territories -- J&K and Ladakh.

The jubilation over the revocation of Article 370 was amplified when the Supreme Court in November cleared the decks for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya that Hindu organisations claim is the birthplace of the warrior-god.

The winning streak continued with the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that faced a determined opposition closing ranks in both houses of Parliament. Deft floor management and outreach to parties that are not part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ensured that the Bill that seeks to offer citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh was passed this week.

While the government has chosen to refer to these accomplishments purely from a legislative point of view and in keeping with its poll plank of “sabka vikas, sabka vishwas,” there is no denying that these issues have been at the core of the RSS agenda.

“There are three issues that the government has broadly addressed, the ideological issues, the development agenda and the gareeb kalyan (welfare of the poor). We had a clearly stated ideological position on abrogation of Article 370, CAB and Triple Talaq and work is underway to fulfil the promises we made for uplift of the poor under the shadow of a global economic slowdown. We are confident that we will be able to meet the target of becoming a $ 5 trillion economy,” a senior BJP functionary said on condition of anonymity.

Commenting on the fast pace of work in the BJP’s second consecutive stint at the Centre, Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said, “No one expected them to work at such as pace. It seems they don’t want to waste any time in fulfilling their ideological commitments...”

The opposition, for its part, has accused the BJP of rushing through the legislative process. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma on Wednesday said the government, instead of sending the CAB to a select panel to discuss its provisions, had shown “haste” in introducing the legislation.

Political analyst Sanjoy Hazarika said the Opposition lacked a common narrative and could not get its act together to counter the “BJP’s well planned strategy.”

“They did not have a singular narrative imaginatively couched and strongly argued,” he said.