Janata Dal (United) leader and political strategist Prashant Kishor on Sunday questioned Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi’s silence over the National Register of Citizens, ANI reported.
The National Register of Citizens is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented migrants. It was carried out in Assam earlier this year. Its final list excluded 19 lakh people, or 6% of the state’s population.
“If the Congress president gives one statement [on the NRC], it will bring clarity,” he told ANI. “Taking part in dharnas, demonstrations, that is all legitimate and valid, but why there is not even a single official statement coming from the Congress president on the issue is something beyond my understanding.”
Kishor pointed out that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government did not amend the Citizenship Act when it had an opportunity do so. “The CAA was created back in 2003,” he said. “From 2004 to 2014, the Congress government was in power. If the law was so unconstitutional, which is a fact, the Congress had an opportunity to amend it.”
He said the Congress Working Committee, which is the highest decision-making body of the party, must ask chief ministers of all Congress-ruled states to declare that they will not allow the implementation of the NRC. “More than 10 chief ministers, including the ones in the Congress, have said they will not allow NRC in their states,” the JD(U) leader added. “In other regional parties like those led by Nitish Kumar, Naveen Babu, Mamata didi or Jagan Mohan Reddy, the chief ministers are serving as the head of the parties.”
“My question and concern are why is that the Congress president hasn’t said officially that the NRC will not be allowed in Congress-ruled states?” Kishor asked.
Following two weeks of massive protests, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had last week claimed that the National Population Register had nothing to do with the National Register of Citizens, and that the government had not yet discussed NRC. The NPR is described by the Census of India as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”.
Kishor disagreed with Shah, and said the documents speak for themselves. “This entire NRC and NPR debate are linked to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2003, during which, for the first time it was defined that after NPR, if the government wishes, they can do NRC,” he said. “On multiple platforms from the government side – none less than the prime minister himself at some of the election rallies in West Bengal – they talked about NRC. The home minister mentioned that it was not they who are linking [the two].”
He asserted that NRC was a subset of the NPR. “Now it is up to the government what they want to do,” he added. “The government after implementing NPR may say that they won’t go ahead with the NRC, but according to the process, NPR is a prerequisite to NRC. According to government documents, NPR and NRC are linked.”
The Janata Dal (United) is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the party had voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in both House of Parliament. Kishor has time and again expressed his disappointment with the party’s decision to support the amendments.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is yet to issue a statement on the matter.
Kishor also said that his party should contest more seats than the Bharatiya Janata Party
in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections, PTI reported. “As far as my understanding is concerned, it [the seat share] should be one is to 1.4 as it was the practice in 2009 and 2010 Assembly elections,” he said, when asked if Kumar will remain silent till the deal is finalised.
In the Lok Sabha elections held in May, JD(U) and BJP had contested 17 seats each. Six seats were allotted to Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party.