UAPA support: Congress faces wrath of Oppn parties

**EDS: TV GRAB** New Delhi: Congress leader P Chidambaram speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Friday, Aug 2, 2019. (RSTV/PTI Photo) (PTI8_2_2019_000043B)

July 24 in Lok Sabha: Congress MPs walked out from Lok Sabha after government refuses to send the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment to a Parliamentary Standing Committee

Aug 1, 6:27 PM in Rajya Sabha: Kapil Sibal (Congress) -- I stand here to request the Home Minister to agree to send this Bill to a Select Committee and if that is not agreed upon, I stand here to oppose the Bill

Aug 2, 12:11 PM: P Chidambaram (Congress) -- I oppose this bill because it gives power to the government to name an individual as a terrorist. I oppose the Bill on this ground

Aug 2, 1 PM:  Congress supports the separate motions by DMK, CPI(M) and MDMK MPs to send the Bill to a Select Committee

Aug 2, 1:23 PM: Going against other Opposition parties, Congress supports the government to pass the Bill.

Congress on Friday surprised and angered other Opposition parties by supporting the government to pass the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha minutes after it supported their motion to send the proposed legislation to a Select Committee.

The UAPA amendment bill was one of the three contentious bills which the Opposition wanted to be sent to Select Committee. Congress had fielded senior Congress MPs P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Digvijay Singh during the debate on Thursday and Friday forcefully argued for sending the Bill for further scrutiny.

It voted with the Opposition on the motion too but was defeated 85-104. However, when CPI(M) MP Elamarom Kareem demanded 'division' (voting) on the passage of Bill, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad was seen gesturing to his party colleagues to note 'yes' on the ballot paper and the vote on the government side rose to 147 while Opposition's dwindled to 42.

Soon after the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for lunch, Kareem was off the block first to attack the Congress as he tweeted, "they backstabbed democracy. They betrayed the minorities. Congress betrayed the people of India by voting in favour of the draconian UAPA Bill in Rajya Sabha."

A senior Opposition leader said it was curious that the Congress changed its stand within minutes in Rajya Sabha, especially after it had walked out in Lok Sabha demanding Parliamentary scrutiny. It had also led an Opposition to walk out on the RTI Amendment Bill accusing manipulation in voting and voted for sending the Triple Talaq Bill to a Select Committee though the Bill was allowed to be passed through a voice vote.

Congress leaders said they could not have opposed the passage of the UAPA Bill, as they would have been portrayed as diluting the fight against terrorism.

While BSP stood with the government on both occasions during the voting on the Bill, sources said Trinamool Congress, DMK, RJD, CPI(M), CPI, PDP, TDP and AAP among some others voted against the passage of the Bill.

Four-member BSP was conspicuous by its absence during the voting on RTI Amendment Bill and Triple Talaq Bill though it had joined its hand with Opposition on these proposed legislations, prompting some Opposition leaders to accuse the party of succumbing to the BJP.

CPI General Secretary D Raja told DH, “Congress should understand that the times have changed and we have a government that is bringing draconian laws. Those things have to be opposed.”

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