When Punjab’s former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday reiterated his demand to include Muslims in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, he was voicing a larger concern among many NDA allies, whose politics has never centred around hard-line Hindutva.
Badal from Shiromani Akali Dal was among the NDA allies who voiced reservations against the CAA advocating citizenship rights to minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on religious lines. Badal, in his address, also underlined that the preamble of the Constitution is secular and the country is secular.
The national President of Lok Janshakti Party Chirag Paswan, son of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, went pubic on Friday saying the government has “failed” in allaying apprehensions of a large community with regard to CAA and rued that the BJP-led government did not pay heed to his advice to have a thorough discussion with all allies regarding this “sensitive” Bill. LJP is a key ally of NDA and Ram Vilas Paswan is the tallest leader of Dalit community (especially his caste Dusadh) in Bihar.
An indication of his remark not having gone well with the BJP was evident when Prime Minister Narendra Modi trained guns on “those claiming to be doing Dalit politics” as to why they “remained silent” to the persecution of Dalits in Pakistan as “ most of the refugees that have come to India from Pakistan are Dalits, who were made to work as bonded labour.” Modi said that untouchability was practised with Dalits in Pakistan to the level that they had to even pay for cup or glass in which they used to have tea at shops.
“Today when the Modi government is trying to remove the pain of Dalits, why are feeling its pinch? (aapke pet me dard kyon ho raha hai?)”
Modi did not refer to any party or leader. Many Dalit leaders from Opposition parties have also attacked the BJP over CAA.
Another key NDA ally from Biha r-- Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was quick to announce that his party, JD(U), will not support NRC in Bihar days after a clear divide in the party over its support to CAA, which JDU Vice President Prashant Kishor found incongruous with the party’s ideology.
Even as the JD(U) is still part of the NDA, Kishor, a close aide of Nitish, is asking people to keep protesting peacefully against CAA and NRC by raising their voice on all platforms and urging all 16 non-NDA Chief Ministers not to allow NRC in their states.
This, even as Modi government is yet to make any clear indication of a rollback of nationwide NRC after having made a strong pitch for NRC in all states earlier. Another offshoot of Janata Party Parivar in Odisha — Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, which backed the CAA in Parliament and in past bailed out the NDA in the passage of several Bills in past, is also on record ruling out NRC in his state.
Other Janata Party offshoots in the Opposition like the SP, RJD and JDS are in agitation-mode against both NRC and CAA. The discomfort with CAA and NRC in these parties with socialist and farmer base is understandable as they were never comfortable with the Hindutva politics of the BJP.
Besides the anti-CAA protest getting the support of various Dalit groups, has a possibility of the emergence of a Dalit-Muslim axis. In Punjab, Dalits account for the highest in any state-31.9 per cent while LJP’s traditional base in Bihar is among Dalits and Muslims. Despite an alliance with the BJP, Muslims had also been soft towards Nitish Kumar in pre-Narendra Modi and Amit Shah period. JDU’s alliance with BJP is two decades old.
The recalibration of the strategy by these political parties does reflect the growing unease over the CAA protest taking a secular character going beyond the limits of Left parties and Muslims. The length and breadth of the protest also a matter of concern for them.