NRC spectre could backfire in Bengal, BJP should desist
The spectre of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) now looms over Bengal; fear and anxiety are spreading as BJP and Trinamool Congress cross swords over its implementation in the state. That rusty phrase about mai baap sarkar seems freshly relevant as long queues form before government offices, with people looking to fetch proof of citizenship in anticipation of the exercise. While chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been emphatic there won’t be an NRC in the state, BJP has been talking up the need for it. Thus, after the NRC exercise in Assam, BJP is clearly viewing NRC in Bengal as its ace in the hole, that will help it topple the Trinamool government in the 2021 assembly polls.
It should think again. The strategy could backfire for BJP, whose star is otherwise rising due to corruption and misgovernance in the state. Parties should desist from a race to the bottom where they compete on who can make people’s lives more miserable. The Assam NRC exercise was nothing short of a disaster with no party happy with the outcome. It’s clear there have been gross errors of exclusion and lakhs of people were put through great financial pain to prove their citizenship.
Besides, there was some legal justification for the Assam NRC based on the 1985 Assam Accord, which at its core sought to protect Assamese identity. None such exists for NRC in Bengal. In fact, here BJP can’t hide NRC’s anti-Muslim communal agenda. Plus, the Bangladeshi infiltration bogey is yesterday’s story. With Bangladesh notching up impressive economic growth and projected to emerge as the fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific, few push factors exist today for Bangladeshis to cross the border illegally. Taken together, a Bengal NRC will be another debacle with high pain and no gain.