Stating that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) cannot be “segregated” from one another or viewed in “isolation”, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath said on Sunday that his government would not “execute” anything which “divides society or has the potential to divide”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said there was no crying need to amend the citizenship law or bring a nationwide NRC. The cry in the country, he said, was to get India out of economic distress. The overwhelming demand is for jobs and ensuring a fair price to farmers for their agricultural produce, he said. But the BJP government chose to amend the citizenship law and is talking about NRC to “divide society”, said Nath.
His remarks came a day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) asked the central government to stop the NPR updation exercise and withdraw the contentious CAA. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had described NPR 2020 as a disguised NRC, in form and content. “As a party in government in several states, we must take a wise and uniform decision on NPR,” she had said.
The Left government in Kerala and the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal have already decided not to carry out the NPR exercise in their states.
Asked about NPR, Nath said: “All these things have to be taken together: NPR, citizenship law and NRC. You can’t segregate them or view them in isolation. The executing agency has to be the state. They cannot get people from France to execute it. We will execute nothing which divides society, or has the potential to divide society.”
The Kerala Assembly has also passed a resolution asking the central government to repeal the CAA. Asked whether Madhya Pradesh would follow suit, Nath said: “They have passed a resolution asking the Centre to reconsider it. That is the Kerala resolution. If we have decided not to execute it, then why do you need any resolution.”
Asked whether his government would also not execute the NPR, he said: “As I said, they have to be taken together.”
When reminded that he was a cabinet minister in the UPA government which had rolled out NPR for the first time in 2010, he said: “Now, it is coupled (with NRC). Now, it is smelling of something else.”
“The citizenship Act and NRC, what was the urgency? What was the desperateness? What was the need to bring this legislation? The cry in the country is to get the country out of economic distress, the cry in the country is for jobs, the cry in the country is for fair agricultural policies… fair price. There is no cry in the country for NRC and citizenship Act,” he said.
“This itself demonstrates some kind of mala fide. Instead of addressing issues which are impacting the country, you are going into things for which there is no hurry. Where are refugees coming from? The government’s intention is to divide society,” he said.
Asked whether the Congress had walked into a BJP trap by raising issues which have the potential to polarise, he said: “There is no question of walking into any trap.” He said the BJP was spreading the “canard” that the protests against CAA and NRC were being waged by Muslims, and argued that this was not true.
Nath, however, was not forthcoming on the leadership issue in the Congress. He said there was no issue regarding the party leadership. Asked whether a non-Gandhi would take over as Congress president, he said: “Let’s not digress. Where is the need for it? Everybody in the party has unequivocally said that they want Mr Rahul Gandhi to take over.”
Saying that the Congress faces a bright future, he said: “In five months, the people of the country are feeling that they are being betrayed by the BJP. You have seen the Maharashtra and Haryana results, compare this with the Lok Sabha results.”
Asked whether he feels the tide is turning, he said: “It is not a question of tide turning. The tide has turned.”