The Janata Dal-United, Bharatiya Janata Party's ally in Bihar, looked divided on the issue of the contentious citizenship bill, with general secretary Pavan Varma invoking Mahatma Gandhi to call the legislation "unconstitutional", a day after the party backed it in the Lok Sabha.
"I urge Shri Nitish Kumar to reconsider support to the #CAB in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and against the unity and harmony of the country, apart from being against the secular principles of the JD-U. Gandhiji would have strongly disapproved it," Varma, also the party's national spokesman, tweeted.
Varma's comments came a day after JD-U national vice-president Prashant Kishor voiced disappointment over his party supporting the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha, underlining that the legislation discriminates against people "on the basis of religion".
In a late night tweet when the bill was put to vote and passed by the Lok Sabha with a resounding majority, Kishor sought to underscore that the bill was "incongruous with the constitution of the party, headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, which swore by secularism and Gandhian ideals.
"Disappointed to see JDU supporting #CAB that discriminates right of citizenship on the basis of religion. It's incongruous with the party's constitution that carries the word secular thrice on the very first page and the leadership that is supposedly guided by Gandhian ideals," the poll strategist-turned-politician tweeted.
Speaking to NDTV, Varma said the bill was "unconstitutional, discriminatory and against national
interest" in the context of national unity.
He said the JD-U had "inner democracy" and that he has conveyed his views to Kumar "personally".
When asked if the party's stand in the Lok Sabha stemmed from political necessity as the state will have assembly elections next year, Varma said despite being a constituent of the BJP-led NDA the party has taken contrarian stand on several sensitive issues like Article 370 and instant triple talaq.
The CAB, he said, is not in consonance with JD-U's constitution, which cannot be held hostage to political concerns.
Noting that Nitish Kumar had walked in and out of the NDA in the past, he pointed out that while the JD-U-BJP coalition has given a "stable and good" government in Bihar, the two parties were contesting Jharkhand assembly polls separately.
"The party has freedom to formulate its views on issues," he said.
When asked whether he will ask Kumar to shift the party's stand in the Rajya Sabha where the Bill will be tabled on Wednesday, Varma said, "I will be in touch with my leader but that is between me and the party."