Assam citizen register may spark a fresh govt-opposition face-off
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) moved a step closer to deliver on its poll promise of scrutinizing citizenship in Assam with the publication of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Monday in Guwahati.
The issue is likely to become a key political flashpoint between the government and the opposition parties over the implementation of the mega exercise and the safeguards involved. A glimpse of the political tussle was visible on Monday as the issue resonated in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament with the Congress demanding an all-party meeting on the move.
The sharpest attack, however, came from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who held a press meet in Kolkata and lashed out at the centre on grounds that it was concertedly trying to oust the Bengali population from Assam. “People have valid documents— Aadhaar cards, voter ID cards and passports, but they still don’t meet the NRC criteria. The centre is trying to bulldoze them out of the state and that is why extra police personnel have been deployed. These are not just the Muslims, but Hindus also who are being targeted. And they are Bengali,” she said.
“I will try and meet the home minister.... How many people will be left out in the name of politics? This is a very bad exercise and will have huge repercussions across all communities and castes in India,” said Banerjee, the chief of the Trinamool Congress.
Banerjee’s attack on the Bjp-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over NRC is signifi- cant as the ruling coalition is aiming to be a key challenger to the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. “Questions have been asked over the methodology being followed in finalizing the NRC. It raises questions on the credibility of the process,” senior Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma said in Delhi on Monday.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh clarified in Parliament that allegations against the government were “baseless” because the NRC was carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court and that there is a redressal mechanism in place for those who have been left out from the draft list.
The BJP is a key political player in the NorthEast and, has in the last four years, strengthened its hold in the region, which accounts for 25 Lok Sabha seats. The NDA is in power in all the north-eastern states, except Congress-ruled Mizoram, which goes to poll later this year.
The BJP had, in its manifesto of the 2016 Assam polls, promised to scrutinize “the citizenship of all suspected residents of the state in conformity with the upgraded National Register of Citizens”.
“Since BJP is in power both in the state and at the centre, we had to fulfil our election promise. There are three steps to the issue. The first step is to detect, and then delete and deport. We have taken the first step and now the law will take its own course. Political parties should not use the issue for appeasement politics,” said a senior BJP leader based in Guwahati.
Soon after the draft came out, its political ramification was witnessed in Rajya Sabha where it was taken up for discussion on the demand made by the Trinamool Congress. Senior leaders of the BJP in Assam argued that the draft is not the final document and that mistakes will be addressed soon.