Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United, a Bharatiya Janata Party ally, on Tuesday appeared divided on supporting the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, with two top party functionaries calling the legislation 'discriminatory and unconstitutional'.
Party vice-president Prashant Kishor and general secretary Pavan K Varma voiced disappointment over the JD-U backing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, and urged Kumar to 'reconsider' the stand when the legislation is debated in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the BJP expressed gratitude to the alliance partner, which had opposed key legislations like the triple talaq bill and the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill in the recent past.
However, the JD-U came under opposition fire for supporting the CAB in Parliament.
'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 JDU. Gandhiji would have strongly disapproved it,' Varma, also the party's national spokesman, tweeted.
He later told NDTV that he might broach the issue with the Bihar chief minister, who is also the national president, though that would remain between him and me.
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 National Democratic Alliance 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."
Earlier, on Monday night, while the Bill was being put to vote in the Lok Sabha, Kishor had tweeted, 'Disappointed to see JDU supporting #CAG that discriminates right of citizenship on the basis of religion. Its 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.'
Bihar BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand came out with a cryptic tweet on Tuesday, saying, 'Some individuals are keen to establish themselves either as an institution or beyond the organisational framework. They also want their leader to follow them and move according to their dictates. The one who cant shed differences for the sake of ones country is worthless.'
In another tweet, in Hindi, he thanked parties which supported the Bill.
Another JD-U spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad sought to defuse the controversy, saying, 'Our party is democratic hence there is not a gag order. Some senior leaders have expressed their personal views. The party took its official stand after factoring in that the persecuted minorities from the adjoining countries should get help from India.
'Moreover, the assumption that this legislation discriminates against Muslims is unfounded. Even if a Muslim in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh needs help, there has been a system in place to grant political asylum. And that system will not go away with the (passage of) the Bill,' he added.
However, the Congress fumed at the 'equivocation' by the JD-U and warned it of electoral implications given Kumar's popularity among the state's Muslims despite old ties with the BJP.
"I have been in touch with many Muslims within the JD-U who are deeply embarrassed by the flip-flop. Nitish Kumar should come out and state himself which is the real face of JD-U the one represented by Varma and Kishor or the one we saw in Parliament," BPCC working president Kaukab Qadri told PTI.
Qadri accused Kumar of 'capitulating before those whose guiding forces have been Nathuram Godse and Savarkar for the sake of holding on to power'.
"Nitish Kumar's talk of socialism and Gandhianism are a farce. He has often wondered why the Congress has never chosen the JD-U to align with instead of the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal). In his own inconsistency lies the answer," he said.
Qadri said nobody knew what Kumar actually believed in, and claimed that the JD-U president will lose whatever goodwill he enjoyed among the state's Muslims.
The RJD, meanwhile, launched a blistering attack on its official Twitter handle, calling Kishor 'a BJP agent' who was inducted by Kumar under instructions of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The RJD was alluding to the claim made by the Bihar chief minister in a TV interview some months ago that the BJP national president had asked him to make the former poll strategist an active member of the JD-U.
Akhtarul Iman, state president of Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Mjalis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which recently made its maiden entry into the Bihar assembly winning Kishanganj seat in a bypoll, said, "The development has exposed the communalist face of Nitish Kumar, who has been pretending to be secular to garner Muslim votes."
He urged all Muslim MLAs and MPs of the JD-U to stand in solidarity with the 'sentiment prevailing within the community' and tender their resignation.