Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party national president Chirag Paswan, both allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party and members of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, on Friday signalled their opposition to a National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise.
“Kyo hoga implement Bihar mein (Why will it be implemented in Bihar),” Kumar said while responding to mediapersons queries on NRC. Kumar was coming out after addressing the 80th National Road Congress Convention.
Paswan too indicated his party’s opposition to the NRC and said that nationwide protests show that the Centre has “failed” to dispel confusion among a significant section of society regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act.
While the government has maintained that the CAA merely fast-tracks citizenship for persecuted minorities from India’s Muslim-majority neighbours Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and doesn’t affect anyone else, leave alone Muslims in India, there are fears that CAA will be followed by a nationwide NRC, which will require residents of India to prove their citizenship. A Supreme Court-ordered NRC excluded 1.9 million people, including lakhs of Hindus, and protests against CAA are being stoked by the interpretation that while Hindus left out of a NRC exercise have access to citizenship through CAA, Muslims do not. Several BJP leaders, including home minister Amit Shah have said there will be a nationwide NRC. To be sure, there has been no official announcement regarding this, although it is widely believed that the National Population Register or NPR will be used as the basis for it.
Their opposition to the exercise comes after another BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal said Muslims too should be part of CAA. The head priest of the Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh has also come out in favour of this.
Interestingly, the JD(U), LJP and the SAB all voted in favour of the CAA in Parliament.
The chief of another party that voted in favour of the bill, the Biju Janata Dal’s Naveen Patnaik, Odisha’s chief minister, said that there will be no NRC in his state. The BJD is not an ally of the BJP, although it is considered a friendly party that usually votes along with the BJP in Parliament.
Kumar’s comment on Friday comes after BJD vice president Prashant Kishor said his chief minister and party chief has assured him that NRC will not be implemented in Bihar.With assembly elections due in 2020, his announcement is also seen a message to assuage the concerns of Muslims who account for 16.9% of the state’s population.
Several JD(U) leaders including the party’s national spokesperson Pawan Varma and Kishor also opposed its support to CAA .
On Thursday, Kumar said: “The minority communities need not worry on any count. I take the guarantee that minority communities cannot be ignored and no wrong can happen to them as long as we are at the helm.
LJP’s Paswan, whose party backed the CAA in Parliament, released a letter he has written to BJP president and home minister Amit Shah, urging him to call a meeting of members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance to hold deliberations over the contentious proposal.
“Disaffection against the law continues in the country despite the bill’s passage by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The LJP had urged the government for deliberations among allies precisely to ensure that such a situation does not arise,” he said.
In his tweets, Paswan assured Muslims and Dalits besides other “deprived” sections of society that his party will pay full attention to their concerns over the NRC.
“The LJP will not support any bill that is not in the interest of the common man,” he said.
A political analyst said Kumar and Paswan were simply ensuring they didn’t put off Muslim voters. “Both parties supported CAA” which is linked to NRC, said analyst D M Diwakar of A N Sinha Institute for Social Studies.”What is the guarantee that Kumar’s party will not support the NRC especially after what happened with the Triple Talaq and 370 legislations. The JD (U) initially opposed these two bills also,” he added . The JD(U) walked out after expressing its opposition to the Triple Talaq legislation in the Lok Sabha.