Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said that the Citizenship Amendment Act will be implemented after the countrywide coronavirus vaccination programme ends. He made the remarks during a campaign rally in West Bengal’s Thakurnagar town, a stronghold of the Matua community.

The Matua Mahasangha is a religious organisation consisting principally of Namashudra Dalits with origins in Bangladesh. A large part of the BJP’s success in West Bengal has been attributed to Namashudra support.

“In 2018, we promised CAA for all,” Shah said at the rally. “In 2019, they supported us. In 2020, the CAA came into effect. Mamata Banerjee said we will not allow CAA. What we promise, we deliver. As soon as the work on vaccination and the pandemic is over, we will implement CAA.”

Shah highlighted West Bengal Chief Minister’s claims that even if the Centre implemented the CAA, her administration would not do so in the state. He asked the crowd of his supporters from the Matua community if they would let her come back to power after the Assembly elections.

The home minister also invoked his position in the government to assert that Muslims would not be stripped of their citizenship. “As the Union Home Minister of India, I would like to announce on this ‘pavitra bhumi [sacred land] that CAA will not strip the citizenship of my Muslim brothers,” Shah said. “There is no clause in CAA to do so. It is an Act for giving citizenship and not for snatching it.”

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Shah’s comments came after BJP MP from Bongaon Shantanu Thakur recently demanded that the Centre should clarify the developments related to the implementation of the citizenship law. Thakur had made an election promise to the Matua community about providing citizenship to them, reported News18.

Earlier in the day, Shah took a dig at Banerjee, saying that she too will chant “Jai Shri Ram” before Assembly elections are over in the state. The slogan, which hails the Hindu deity Ram, gained significance as Banerjee last month declined to speak at an event to celebrate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary, after people chanted it.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Protests against the CAA had started in Delhi in mid-December and spread across the country.