Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is the latest chief minister to have spoken out strongly against the proposal of a nationwide updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). From the point of view of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the opposition to the move by Nitish " an important ally " would possibly be the most worrying.
Nitish had on Monday asserted that a nationwide implementation of the NRC was needless and had no justification. He made these remarks on the floor of the state Assembly.
The country is witnessing huge turmoil on these issues (CAA, NRC and NPR), Nitish said, adding that we should keep in mind that NRC was an exercise confined to Assam as part of the accord signed by the Rajiv Gandhi government.
This is not the first time Nitish has taken a differing stand on the issue. In fact, on 20 December, he had specifically said that the process will not be implemented in Bihar.
On Monday, Kumar said, "A nationwide NRC would be needless (koi zarurat nahi hai) and has no justification (koi auchitya nahi hai). We do not think any such thing is going to take place. I think the prime minister, too, has spoken clearly on this."
While Narendra Modi had indeed said that the government has not discussed a nationwide NRC, the claim has been met with suspicion by Opposition parties. Several of them pointed out that home minister Amit Shah had announced in the Rajya Sabha that there would be a nationwide NRC. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh questioned why the BJP's Twitter handle deleted an old post by Shah in which he hinted at a nationwide NRC.
Even now, the BJP seems to be speaking in multiple voices on the subject. On 6 January, the West Bengal BJP in its booklet claimed that after implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the register of citizens will be in the pipeline.
This confusion does little to assuage allies like the Janata Dal (United), which has consistently positioned itself as a party that cares about minorities and seeks their electoral support. An instance of this is Nitish's statement during his Jal Jeevan Hariyali Yatra, "I guarantee the safeguard of the interests of minorities in Bihar. Nothing bad will happen to them as long as I am around."
However, it is important to note that despite all these statements, the JD(U) voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act when it faced the crucial test of the Rajya Sabha.
The JD(U) is not the only BJP ally to have voiced its opposition to the NRC or the Citizenship Amendment Act. Another key NDA member, the Shiromani Akali Dal, has voiced concerns about the CAA and has said that it should include Muslims as well. Party president Sukhbir Singh Badal had said on 21 December, 2019, "I am speaking on behalf of my party and the party is very clear that the Government of India should include them (Muslims) and should come out with an amendment because that what the people feel and is the mood of the nation."
"People belonging to all religions reside in our country and this is our strength that they stay together as a team. Why should you exclude (them)?... I personally feel that the Government of India should include them. There should be no exclusion on the basis of religion," he had added.
Like the JD(U), the SAD had also voted in favour of the CAA in the Rajya Sabha.
Whether the statements of the JD(U) and the SAD are mere optics or whether they will have any concrete effects on political equations will be seen in the times to come.
With inputs from PTI