A WEEK after his MPs voted for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday opposed a countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC), swelling the number of chief ministers who have said they will not implement it in their states, as being planned by the central government, to seven. Read in Malayalam here
“The Citizenship (Amendment) Act has nothing to do with Indian citizens. It only deals with foreigners. The Biju Janata Dal’s MPs, both in Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha, have made it clear that we do not support the NRC. I would appeal to our citizens to let peace prevail and not to indulge in rumour mongering,” Patnaik said.
Lok Sabha MP from Puri and senior BJD leader Pinaki Misra told The Indian Express, “NRC may give scope for people to be targeted while being asked to prove citizenship. I can’t prove my own citizenship — I don’t have a birth certificate.”
Saying the National Population Register (NPR) was the first step for an NRC, Misra said it would be done by the state executive, “so the Centre cannot force a state government to do it”.
The chief ministers of five Opposition-ruled states — West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Punjab’s Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel and Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan — have already opposed both the CAB and NRC.
Besides, some ruling parties in states — like the Telangana Rasthra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana and AAP in Delhi — have also criticised a nationwide NRC. The TRS and AAP also opposed the CAB in Parliament.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha on the CAB, TRS’s K Keshava Rao had said: “We oppose this Bill because it is anti-Muslim… It has to be read along with NRC. You can’t just separate it saying this is something else and that is something else. Its lengthening shadows are on NRC… Today, why is the Assam situation getting worse? It is because the fear is that it will make somebody a citizen and somebody else a non-citizen. Immunisation to those people who are Hindus; illegal immigrants if they are Muslims and they go out. This kind of discrimination.”
So far, seven ruling parties — the Congress, Trinamool Congress, BJD, JD(U), CPI(M), AAP and TRS — have opposed a nationwide NRC. Together, they are in power in 11 states — Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Kerala, Delhi and Telangana — and account for 42.8 per cent of India’s population, covering a geographical area of 40.43 per cent. Going by Census 2011 data, the cumulative population of these states is 51,82,59,196 (42.8% of India’s population of 121,08,54,977).
The Congress and NCP — both of which have opposed the NRC — are part of the ruling alliance in Maharashtra, along with the Shiv Sena. If Maharashtra is added to the list of states, the cumulative population goes up to 63,06,33,529 — or 52.08 per cent of the country’s population. The Shiv Sena had voted in favour of the CAB in Lok Sabha, but nuanced its stand and stayed away from voting in Rajya Sabha.
With the BJD and JD(U) joining the Opposition ranks in opposing the NRC, the numbers game in Parliament could also change. While the Opposition got only 99 votes, the combined strength of the parties which had opposed the CAB in Rajya Sabha was 106. The BJD has 7 members in Rajya Sabha, while JD(U) has 6. Along with two independents and a nominated member — and if the Shiv Sena (3) is added to it — the Opposition is close to the halfway mark in the 245-member House.
While all the Congress chief ministers have not spoken out, the party has made it clear that it is against a nationwide NRC. Banerjee, on the other hand, has emphatically asserted that she will not allow implementation of the new citizenship law or the NRC in West Bengal. Vijayan, as also his party, has made it clear that he is against the NRC exercise.
Arguing that the central government would not be able to implement the NRC or the new citizenship law, Gehlot had said these were yet another attempt by the BJP to convert the country into a Hindu Rashtra.
On Tuesday, Baghel said he would be the “first person” not to sign on the NRC if the central government implemented it. “Today I want to say from this stage, on the 150th anniversary of Gandhiji, that during the time of the Britishers, Gandhiji refused to sign the register and recorded his protest. I want to say from this stage that if they implement NRC, I will be the first person not to sign the register. Why should I prove I am Indian,” he said in Raipur.