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Modi leads fight against violence bill

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The BJP today led a chorus against the communal violence bill, describing it as a threat to states’ powers and reviving the spectre of a federal front against the Centre.

Narendra Modi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh outlining his objections to the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013.

The Congress-led UPA has signalled it intends to bring and pass the legislation in Parliament’s winter session that started today.

The Trinamul Congress questioned the “hurry”. “Why is the government trying to bring this bill when the Lok Sabha elections are around the corner and when many state governments and several major parties are against it?” the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, was quoted by PTI as saying.

Modi wrote that the bill, once enacted, could encroach on the states’ domain of maintaining law and order, and would be inimical to the federal structure.

The Biju Janata Dal echoed the view, as did the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, which support the Centre.

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said the ambit of communal violence as defined in the bill did not only concern religions but also linguistic identities, leading to “serious issues of operationalising the provisions”.

“The religious and linguistic identities will become more reinforced and even ordinary incidents of violence will be given a communal colour… it will increase communal violence and fragment Indian society further,” the Gujarat chief minister wrote.

Among Modi’s objections was one in which he claimed that the proposed law “tarnished” police forces and painted them as “communal”.

He took potshots at the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council saying it had influenced the bill. “It is the same NAC, an extra-constitutional authority, and the same set of individuals who seem to have now usurped the law-making powers,” Modi alleged. The NAC had pushed through a draft, which was later amended by the government.

An early voice against the bill was AIADMK boss and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, who had written to the Prime Minister on Monday, before Modi did.

Her views were endorsed by the BJP and quoted by Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley on Facebook.

The BJP, especially Modi, shares a degree of bonhomie with Jayalalithaa. Lately, the party has noted her inclination to become part of the still-to-fructify “third front” of the Left and the “secular” forces and felt it was time to revive its links with her.

In her letter on the bill, Jayalalithaa said its provisions were “vague” and could be “subjected to serious abuse”. She specifically mentioned the phrase “hostile environment” in Section 3 (f). She argued that its definition as creating an “intimidating, hostile or offensive environment” could lend itself to varying interpretations.

She sought a debate on the bill. BJP sources said they would try and band the Opposition together to block the bill’s introduction.

The protests have revived memories of the Centre’s proposal for a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) that had sparked fears about states’ powers. Modi, Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa had led the resistance, fuelling talk of a “federal front” of regional leaders.