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Jaya coaxes friends on riot bill

- Modi factor tilts the scales against law
Jayalalithaa

New Delhi, Feb. 5: Jayalalithaa’s stated opposition to the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2014 — or the CV Bill — carried the day with her new friends from a broad non-Congress, non-BJP front who include the CPM and the CPI.

Until recently, most parties who have banded together in a still unchristened front had backed the CV Bill “in spirit” because it was seen as the first document that sought to create a robust accountability system and lay down national standards for treatment of victims of communal violence —from rescue and relief to compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement and recognising the rights of internally displaced persons.

The BJP had opposed the bill in its entirety from the start, alleging that it was slanted against Hindus and encroached upon matters exclusively within the domain of the state executive.

The Left, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United) and the Janata Dal (Secular), who have come together, too had argued the bill transgressed on federal rights but the objections were never forcefully articulated. At one point the Dal (United) even gave the impression it was keen to push the bill through in Parliament at the earliest.

The government tweaked the proposed legislation, took on board the Opposition’s contentions and in the process watered down the original draft. But Jayalalithaa persistently opposed it.

The AIADMK chief, who hopes to emerge as the nucleus of the front after projecting herself as a prime-ministerial contender, had written to the Prime Minister in December 2013, urging him not to push the bill “hastily” without consulting political parties and stakeholders because that, she said, would be “completely undemocratic”.

In her footsteps, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi wrote a letter to non-Congress chief ministers, iterating the points Jayalalithaa had flagged and hoping to coalesce a broader alliance on the principle of federalism. However, with Jayalalithaa warming up to the Left, Modi’s agenda has been thwarted.

This morning, when the floor leaders of the AIADMK, Left Front, Dal (United), Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Asom Gana Parishad and the Samajwadi Party met to formalise a joint parliamentary strategy, they appear to have decided to oppose the introduction of the CV Bill.

An AIADMK source who asked not to be named, K.C. Tyagi of the Dal (United) and Birendra Prasad Baishya of the AGP confirmed the issue was discussed.

“Yes, we agreed it should not be introduced in its present form because it does not address the concerns of the states. No doubt, we support it in spirit but imagine if this bill becomes law and we have a Prime Minister like Modi. He could invoke its provisions to dismiss unfriendly governments,” said Tyagi, pointing out that his leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had stressed on safeguarding states’ rights when the National Integration Council met last year.

Asked if the Left would want to be seen on the same side as the BJP in disapproving the bill, CPM leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury said: “No. The BJP wants the bill itself to be withdrawn, we want more discussions on it.”

Sources said that had the AIADMK not given the “impetus”, the constituents would have gone their own way.

The CV Bill was originally inspired by the National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia Gandhi, that pitched for a law that would go beyond the CrPC and the IPC by recognising identity-based or targeted crimes and all manner of sexual assaults apart from rape, hate propaganda and organised violence as special offences.

The NAC also stressed on making governments “accountable” instead of “empowering” them.