As­sam ci­ti­zen reg­is­ter may spark a fresh govt-op­po­si­tion face-off

Mint Asia ST - - News - BY A NUJA & G YAN VA RMA

The

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.

anuja@livemint.com

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