The Congress welcomed the Shiv Sena's decision to reconsider supporting the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha after voting for it in Lok Sabha. Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said he won't back the bill in Rajya Sabha till there is clarity on questions raised by his party in Lok Sabha. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told reporters that if the Shiv Sena, who have three Rajya Sabha MPs, changes its position on the bill in Rajya Sabha realising that it was against the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution, then the party 'welcomes' it.
The change in Shiv Sena's stand came just hours after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said those supporting the Bill are attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation. Gandhi wrote on Twitter, "The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation."
"We are cognisant of the fact that ideologically we are different and we respect that diversity. Therefore, the alliance in Maharashtra is premised on a specific situation. I don't think that the Shiv Sena has asked us to give up our ideological position and we do not expect them to do so, and these are the realities of real politics," Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said.
"To tell them not to stay true to their ideology is not correct. If the Shiv Sena is thinking of changing its stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha based on the fact that it is against the Constitution and is hurting its basic tenets, then we welcome it."
He also said that not only the Congress, but all the nationalistic forces in the country will support the Shiv Sena. The Modi government needs to worry about the economy, job crisis and rising cost of living, especially onion price rise, more than the implementation of the Bill, he said. He clarified that while the Congress had no problems with giving shelter to those being discriminated against in the neighbouring countries, but said that the party demands a comprehensive and inclusive refugee law. He also asked the government to come clean on its border policy.
"In a country where the apex court has maintained that secularism forms the basis of our Constitution, in such a country to offer citizenship on the basis of religion is a fraud on the Constitution. This is our basic opposition to the Bill," he said.
The Sena had last month parted ways with its ally BJP to form a coalition government in Maharashtra, which is headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there, was passed in the Lok Sabha with 311-80 votes on Monday night, after more than seven hours of debate and discussions.
The government is likely to introduce the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Unlike the 2016 scenario, the ruling government is confident of smooth passage of the Bill in the Upper House. According to official sources, the effective strength of the Rajya Sabha is 238. This makes 120 the majority mark.
Even without Shiv Sena's votes, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 is expected to have the support of 127 members in the House.