The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday asked its MPs to be present in the House in large numbers in the coming days. The direction by the saffron party came as it signalled its intent over the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The Bill, that proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-muslim refugees from Bangladesh is as important as the legislation that revoked Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP said.
The government is likely to clear the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 during a meeting of the Union Cabinet, which is scheduled for 9:30 am Wednesday morning.
The issue of absenteeism among BJP MPs from Parliament was also raised at the parliamentary party meeting, as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh underlined Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dissatisfaction over lack of their adequate presence many times, sources said.
Modi, who was not present in the meeting, has often in the past expressed his displeasure at absenteeism among BJP MPs.
Rejecting the opposition's criticism of the Citizenship Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there, Singh asserted that the BJP has always worked to unite the country and its people.
Sources said Singh also made a reference to the charge that the bill was against secularism as its beneficiaries excluded Muslims. He said the three neighbouring countries were essentially Islamic nations and so it is non-Muslims and not Muslims who are at the receiving end of religious persecution there.
BJP MPs must be present in Parliament in large numbers when Shah tables the bill, which is likely to be cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, Singh said.
Asking the party MPs to ensure their presence in Parliament as it is going to take up key bills in the coming days, he said the prime minister had time and again spoken against absenteeism among the parliamentarians but the issue persists.
He also cautioned them against using unparliamentary words during their intervention in Parliament and said they should be aggressive in countering the opposition but not go to the extent of what the Congress, the BJP's main rival, does.
His remarks came against the backdrop of party MP Pragya Thakur being forced to apologise in the Lok Sabha for her comments on Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse. The BJP subsequently barred her from attending its parliamentary party meeting during the ongoing session.
Woman and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani, in her address, highlighted the efforts of her ministry in fighting malnutrition among pregnant women and infants and said it had organised a record 3.5 lakh events in a month in this regard.