By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, December 13 (IANS) On Friday, in a packed hall at the Indian Women's Press Corps in New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath alleged that the newly-amended Citizenship Act was an attempt by the BJP-ruled Centre to change the narrative by "design".
Calling it a "process that sows seeds of divisiveness," Nath joined a long list of non-BJP Chief Ministers who raised their voice against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), risking its nationwide rollout.
Though Nath has not been as militant in his opposition as his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh, but the ever growing list of Chief Ministers who are not okay with the amended Act stand a real chance to thwart its nationwide implementation.
There's a big question mark on the fate of the Act, even after obtaining the presidential assent. Branding it "unconstitutional ", many Chief Ministers have spoken out against implementing it. Does that mean the Act is of no use any more and more importantly, can they?
Amarinder Singh, Punjab:
Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh was one of the first to articulate his stand. On Thursday, he said that his government would not allow the legislation to be implemented in the state.
Asserting his commitment to the protection of the Constitutional ethos of the country, Amarinder Singh said the Congress, which has a majority in the state Assembly, would block the "unconstitutional" Act in the House.
Parliament had no authority to pass a law that violated the Constitution and violated its basic principles and fundamental rights of the people of India, said the Punjab Chief Minister, declaring CAA to be "null and void" on account of the fact that it was against the tenets and values contained in the Constitution.
"How can you leave out a large section of the Indian population from the protection they have been getting since we declared India a 'sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic', assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty?", asked Amarinder Singh, pointing out that by linking citizenship with religion, the CAA would hit at the very foundation of the nation.
Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala:
Congress' Singh isn't alone but is joined by CPM leader and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in his opposition to the Act. In a scathing attack on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Vijayan on Thursday said, "Come what may, it's not going to see the light of day in Kerala."
"The CAB is absolutely undemocratic and against the basic tenets of the Constitution. For the world outside, the CAB is a shame for India. This is nothing but the agenda of the RSS to make the country a 'Hindu Rashtra'," said Vijayan.
"We will not accept it", he said, adding "it won't take shape in Kerala."
Of the 33 million Kerala population, Muslims account for around 20 per cent and Christians around 18 per cent. No wonder then that Vijayan had asserted, "It's quite certain that the Bill will not pass judicial scrutiny as the very essence of our secular character has been affected. When the Partition took place, lots of Muslims opted for India as they did not want to live in a religious country. The RSS is now trying to do what was done in Pakistan then. But this will be opposed."
Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal:
One of the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Banerjee has made it clear that she won't allow the Act to be implemented in her state just the way she had earlier said that NRC too would not be allowed in West Bengal.
Banerjee has time and again described NRC and CAB as "two sides of the same coin" and promised to the people that nobody in the state would lose his or her citizenship.
Soon after the CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday, she gave a clarion call to oppose it "at any cost".
"There is no need to worry about NRC and CAB. We will never ever allow it in Bengal. They can't just throw out a legal citizen of this country or turn him/her into a refugee," Banerjee had said while addressing a rally in Kharagpur, a stronghold of Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.
Terming the fight against the Act as "second war of independence", Banerjee vowed to up the ante.
Despite the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) in Mizoram being a member of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the regional party would not support the saffron party in any case at the Centre and in the state.
Probably, harping on this, election strategist Prashant Kishore on Friday said that the onus of "saving the soul of India" lies with the 16 non-BJP Chief Ministers who have to operationalise the newly-enacted Citizenship Amendment Act.
Kishore tweeted: "The majority prevailed in Parliament. Now beyond judiciary, the task of saving the soul of India is on 16 Non-BJP CMs as it is the states who have to operationalise these acts. Three Chief Ministers (Punjab/Kerala/WB) have said No to CAB and NRC (National Register of Citizens). Time for others to make their stand clear."
But there's a catch. In spite of all the political brouhaha, the rebel Chief Ministers like Amarinder Singh, may do very little to block the Act.
P.D.T. Achary, who has been the Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, reasons that citizenship is a central subject. "When an Act of this nature is passed by Parliament, states are duty bound to implement it. I am baffled at the statements made by few CMs. The Constitution even has the provision for the Centre to take over the state, if they fail to implement such an Act," he said.
Meanwhile, a Home Ministry official told IANS that states have "no power to reject CAB".
But it's not just the legal assurance, that the Centre is riding high on. Nath in spite of calling it "divisive", hasn't outrightly articulated that his state won't allow the Act to be implemented. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel too took the crutch of the party's stand. He said, "Our stand won't be different from what is being taken by the All India Congress Committee on Citizenship Amendment Act."
So can the Citizenship Amendment Act be implemented at all or 16 non-BJP CM can render it useless, creating a constitutional crisis where the Centre is at loggerheads with states? Till a middle ground is found, the Centre will have to brave judicial challenges and political rhetoric from the opposition.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at email@example.com)