The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday lashed out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for saying the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens were “tax on the poor”, PTI reported. Union minister Prakash Javadekar dubbed Gandhi “liar of the year”, and claimed that people were behind the Centre’s proposed moves.

Earlier in the day, the Congress leader said the new citizenship tests would force the poor to bribe officials to get work done. “Demonetisation was a tax on poor people – go to the bank, can’t take money from your own account,” he said at an event in Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur, according to NDTV. “Poor people will have to go to officers and show their documents and give bribe. They will have to give bribe if there is a slight mistake in their names.”

The population register is linked to the census, due in 2021, and is described as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”. The Cabinet on Tuesday approved funds of Rs 3,900 crore to update the population register. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented migrants.

“The NPR does not involve any monetary transaction and its data is used to identify the poor so that government welfare schemes could reach the targeted people,” Javadekar said, refuting Gandhi’s claims. “A similar exercise was undertaken in 2010 as well.”

Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah challenged the Congress leader to show provisions in the Citizenship Amendment Act that say citizenship of Indians will be taken away.

The Congress responded to Javadekar’s jibe saying the saffron party resorts to personal attacks whenever it is unable to answer Gandhi’s “tough questions”, PTI reported.

“Rahul Gandhi from every platform asks tough questions,” said Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera. “The government of the day is either too arrogant to respond to these questions, which the people want answers to, or the government has no answers to cover their failures. They hide behind abuse, very low, very petty level of narrative, to make it a personal attack.”

There have been massive protests against the amended citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens in the last two weeks. At least 26 people died in the protests – 19 of them in Uttar Pradesh. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised as being discriminatory for excluding Muslims.

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