Opposition meeting on Citizenship Amendment Act: Mamata Banerjee strategy goes against Congress plan

Sonia Gandhi. File

Sonia Gandhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI


The West Bengal Chief Minister becomes notable absentee at the meeting; Arvind Kejriwal may follow her example.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has convened a meeting of Opposition parties on Monday to decide on a joint strategy over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). With people’s protests against the new citizenship law and the NRC continuing for a month now, the Congress wants to rally Opposition parties to devise a common strategy.

The Congress Working Committee has already passed a resolution asking the government to withdraw the CAA and stop work on the National Population Register (NPR). Assemblies in Congress-ruled States are also likely to follow the Kerala Assembly in bringing resolutions to not implement the CAA.

But more than a common strategy and the parties in attendance, the list of absentees will reflect how united the Opposition is on the issue as pressure of regional elections could determine the outcome.

Jockeying for leadership

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has already announced that she would be giving the meeting a miss. And in a clear indication that the Trinamool chief, who had first hit the streets to protest against the CAA, is not willing to cede leadership space to the Congress, her party has decided not to send any representative.

With Bengal going to elections by April-May next year and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as her main challenge, Ms. Banerjee can ill afford to be seen as playing second fiddle to the Congress.

While the Trinamool chief has taken an aggressive stance against the CAA, the party’s leaders have been advised not to indulge in any personal attack on the BJP’s top leadership. Ms. Banerjee’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday drew her sharp criticism, but also raised eyebrows about her possible poll strategy.

Another Opposition leader who could stay away is Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal. Elections in Delhi are weeks away and the Congress is a key rival.

Though AAP has been protesting against the CAA, Mr. Kejriwal was conspicuous by his absence from protests at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after the January 5 attack on the campus, allegedly by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), something the AVBP has categorically denied.

Mr. Kejriwal’s distance from the JNU protests have been viewed as an attempt to stay away from getting caught in the BJP’s narrative of projecting those supporting protesting JNU students as “urban Naxals”.

Interestingly, election strategist Prashant Kishor is advising both Mr. Kejriwal and Ms. Banerjee ahead of the Assembly elections.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati too has avoided such Congress-led meetings in the past, and relations have soured in the recent past with six BSP MLAs in Rajasthan joining the Congress.

“We cannot say who are going to come but invitations have been sent to senior Opposition leaders,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had said on Thursday at a press conference.

The meeting, however, will be attended by the Left parties, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and the Nationalist Congress Party.

The Samajwadi Party, too, could attend, as it has been a part of the Congress delegation to meet President Ram Nath Kovind to protest police excesses against the students of Jamia Milia Islamia during the anti-CAA protests.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 1:32:00 PM |

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