The Citizenship Amendment Bill, to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday and in the Rajya Sabha the following day, is a contentious issue, but the government is confident of its numbers to ensure its passage.
While the BJP on its own has enough numbers in the Lok Sabha to ensure the passage of the Bill, it will be depending on its NDA allies and support from parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and two Independents to see the Bill through in the Upper House.
The 245-member Rajya Sabha has a current strength of 238, for which the majority mark is 120.
“The NDA’s current strength in the Rajya Sabha is 102, with the BJP with 81 members, the Janata Dal(U) with six, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) with three, the Republican Party of India (RPI) with one member and others (including nominated MPs) at 11. The party is in active talks with the AIADMK (11 members), the BJD (seven), the TRS (six), the YSRCP (two) and others,” a senior government manager said. Last Thursday, the BJP gave up contesting the single slot from the Rajya Sabha on the AIIMS Bhubaneswar Board by asking party leader Ashwini Vaishnav to withdraw his candidature leaving Amar Patnaik of the BJD as the only candidate in the field.
Sources said this was part of the quid pro quo over support on the Bill.
Eye on the AIADMK
The AIADMK, which fought in alliance with the BJP in the Lok Sabha election earlier this year, is also being worked on. With 11 MPs, it is a significant group.
The BJP expects support or at the very least members to abstain from voting to bring down the half-way figure required for the passage of the Bill.
The government is getting ready its arsenal for Home Minister Amit Shah’s defence of the Bill, which many say will change the character of Indian citizenship forever.
Sources said these range from digging out a 2003 Rajya Sabha debate on a previous amendment to the Bill, in which former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly advocates citizenship rights to refugees from Bangladesh, to reports from Pakistan that show how religious discrimination and persecution of non-Muslims have been institutionalised in that country.