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Modi shadow on anti-terror bill

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Parliament today felt the impact of the buzz about Narendra Modi becoming the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister after his Gujarat victory, with a Samajwadi member citing this possibility to warn the government against passing a “black act” that he felt could endanger Muslims.

Naresh Agarwal told the Rajya Sabha that if it passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2012, Modi might misuse it in case he became Prime Minister.

“See, Narendra Modi has won (Gujarat) thrice. They (the BJP) could make him the PM candidate…. If such laws go into the hands of people who are not secular, then you can imagine what could happen,” Agarwal said.

The amendment, already passed in the Lok Sabha, looks to clamp down on fake currency and terror funding. The Centre argues it has to have such a law because of India’s membership of the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-government body formed to combat money-laundering and terror-funding.

Non-BJP and non-Congress parties — including the Samajwadis, Left and NDA ally Janata Dal (United) — opposed the law citing possible misuse against minorities and trade unions (since the bill contains the word “association”).

Eventually, the amendment was passed by voice vote mainly through cooperation between the Congress and the BJP, which has been a strong supporter of “tough” acts such as the erstwhile terror laws Pota and Tada.

Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal members walked out and so did the Dal (United) and Left after CPM member P. Rajeeve’s motion for a vote was defeated.

The Samajwadis, angry with the Congress for giving in to Mayawati on the promotion quota for Dalits and tribals, opposed the bill and attacked the BJP in the same breath.

Many Muslim members, including Independent MP Mohammed Adeeb and Dal (United) member Sabir Ali, asked that the bill be revisited.

Dal (United) member Shivanand Tiwari warned that the act could be used even against organisations that wish to provide legal help to people falsely accused of terrorism. Asked about Agarwal’s comments later, Tiwari did not rule out the possibility of misuse of the amended law if Modi were to helm the government.

As counting for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections was in progress, attendance was thin on the BJP benches. So, BJP members Maya Singh and Najma Heptullah could muster only feeble protest against Agarwal’s remarks.

Lucknow buzz

Media reports from Gujarat have triggered speculation that Modi could be fielded from Lucknow, the constituency of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 2014. This appears to have split the heartland BJP along caste lines.

The party’s OBC leaders such as Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar — and even Kalyan Singh, who is expected to rejoin the BJP next month —want fellow backward caste member Modi to contest from Lucknow, hoping this would galvanise the cadre.

But upper caste leaders such as Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra and sitting Lucknow MP Lalji Tandon aren’t enthusiastic. This camp fears Modi might polarise votes against the party by setting off a Muslim backlash.

Tandon is keen to contest again from Lucknow, anyway, despite his old age.

Lucknow has sizeable Brahmin and Shia voters. “Being an OBC, Modi may not find the going easy among Brahmins — and, of course, the Muslims,” a Brahmin MLA close to Tandon said. He added that Modi would still win, but with a lower margin.