PM Modi asks allies to dispel CAA ‘misconceptions’, take on Oppn

Liz Mathew, Harikishan Sharma

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Parliament on the first day of the Budget session on Friday. (Express photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

Asserting that the government should not feel defensive about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked NDA allies to “dispel misconceptions over it by saying Muslims have the same rights as any other citizens”. However, the BJP’s allies have cautioned against seeking new information while updating the National Population Register (NPR) that could create suspicion or fear among minorities.

At the meeting of NDA at the beginning of budget session, Modi urged allies, among whom some have publicly expressed reservations over the new citizenship law, that they should aggressively take on the Opposition charges. “The Prime Minister told us not to be defensive about CAA, but to be aggressive in dispelling rumours that it is anti-Muslim,” a leader from a BJP ally who attended the meeting told The Indian Express. “The Prime Minister reiterated that the government did not do anything wrong and it is up to all of us to convince the people about it,” said a leader of another NDA party.

Sources said that when the allies raised their apprehensions regarding the NPR, the ruling party explained that the new columns would be optional and there will be no requirement for documents if one wants to leave them blank.

Sources said the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the JD(U) expressed concerns about the “fear” the new NPR exercise could create in the minds of minorities.

The NPR form this year has sought details on six extra counts which were not part of the previous exercise in 2010. Specifically, a column seeking the place and date of birth of parents has raised eyebrows given the BJP’s manifesto promise to implement NRC in a phased manner in the country.

“We have made it clear that our reservation against the CAA — that it should not discriminate against the Muslims — stands. We decided to join hands with the BJP for the Delhi elections to keep the harmony in Punjab between the allies. But our stand on CAA is same,” SAD MP Naresh Gujral told The Indian Express. “As far as NPR is concerned, we are not against the exercise...But we are against adding new columns. We oppose anything that could create fear or suspicion in the minds of the poor and the minorities,” Gujral said.

But the sources said Home Minister Amit Shah explained legal aspects of the CAA and why Muslims were excluded from its ambit. The JD (U) and LJP, too, have expressed reservations against adding new questions to NPR. Apna Dal has said Census 2021 should have a column on caste too, sources said. Also, at an all-party meeting on Thursday, the SAD joined the Opposition in demanding that former Jammu and Kashmir CM Farooq Abdullah be released immediately considering his age and health condition and he should be able to attend Parliament.

However, BJP leaders maintained that the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister went off well.

After the NDA meeting, Union Ministers Pralhad Joshi and Arjun Ram Meghwal and BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav went to LJP leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s residence to prepare the NDA resolution. The resolution included the government’s success in signing of the Bodo peace accord, settlement of the Bru migrants in Tripura, abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A, completion of Kartarpur corridor prject, and regularisation of unauthorised colonies in Delhi, sources said.

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