NEW DELHI :
Opposition unity suffered a setback on Monday after some key Opposition parties stayed away from a high-profile meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued to up the ante on the issue.
The Shiv Sena, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) decided to skip the meeting called to build a united front against CAA and come up with a common strategy on the issue against the backdrop of the protests by students. The Shiv Sena and the DMK are allies of the Congress in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu respectively.
“We are a different political party and we are opposing the implementation of CAA on our own. We do not see a reason to join a united front under the banner of the Congress. We have opposed the Congress in Uttar Pradesh," said a senior SP leader.
“DMK, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and SP are with us on this issue irrespective of whether or not they attend the meeting. We are all united on this," leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said after the meeting.
Monday’s meeting at Parliament annexe, chaired by Gandhi, was attended by representatives of 20 political parties including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Left parties.
“The prime minister and home minister have misled the people. They have contradicted their own statements of only weeks ago and continue with their provocative statements while remaining insensitive to the state suppression and violence that is increasingly becoming commonplace," Gandhi said during the meeting.
The passage of legislation such as CAA and the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are only attempts by the National Democratic Alliance to divert the attention of the people from the collapse of economic activity and slowing growth and development, which is affecting all sections of society, especially the poor and disadvantaged, Gandhi said.
“We had a very good discussion with senior Opposition leaders. We prepared a resolution. The main discussion centred around the mood in the country and the fact that thousands of students of all religions and communities have come out against the CAA and NRC. There is a feeling of anger and fear in our students, among the weaker sections and farmers," Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said after the meeting.
A resolution passed by the 20 Opposition parties demands the withdrawal of CAA and the immediate stoppage of the nationwide NRC and National Population Register (NPR). It also urged all chief ministers who have said that they will not implement NRC in their states to also consider suspending NPR enumeration “as this is a prelude to NRC". The Opposition parties will hold peaceful solidarity demonstrations on 23, 26 and 30 January and have urged common citizens to join them.
“Opposition parties like BSP, SP, AAP and TMC did not attend this meeting and the Opposition unity now stands exposed. Congress can go to any extent to oppose PM Modi...We are making a direct allegation that Congress is inciting violence in the country," Union minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Monday also saw BJP’s key ally Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar stating that a countrywide NRC was “needless and has no justification". There should be a discussion on the recent debate over CAA, Kumar told the Bihar assembly, even as he said that his government has agreed in principle to NPR.