New Delhi: Amid growing protests over the citizenship Act on Thursday, key members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and like-minded parties have started coming out against the government’s plans to roll out a National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The problem for the ruling alliance is that the opponents of the NRC include parties that voted with the government for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Parliament. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which is not in the NDA, spoke out against the NRC although it was vociferous in its support for the CAA.
Odisha chief minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik said on Wednesday that his party is opposed to the NRC but urged protesters to help maintain peace in the country.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), one of the oldest allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is leading the charge against a nationwide NRC that the BJP had promised to implement. Senior SAD leaders said that while CAA was needed to protect persecuted minorities coming from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries, the party was against the implementation of NRC.
“We are against implementation of NRC. CAA has been passed by Parliament but we do not support NRC in the country," said a senior SAD leader on condition of anonymity.
Another member of the alliance, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), is even rethinking its support for CAA in Parliament. AGP had supported the NDA in both Houses of Parliament during the vote on CAA. However, a week after the controversial Act was passed in Parliament, senior AGP leaders said the party would find it difficult to continue in the NDA if CAA is implemented in Assam, the border state that is in the eye of the citizenship storm.
AGP leaders met governor Jagdish Mukhi on Tuesday to stress that CAA should not be implemented in Assam.
“We are against the implementation of the CAA in Assam. The citizenship law is not in favour of Assam and would lead to a threat to the culture, language, and identity of indigenous people of the state," said a senior AGP leader from Guwahati.
Another crucial NDA member, the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), is grappling with the internal protests against party president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The JD(U) had in Parliament supported the implementation of CAA but is against the implementation of NRC in the country.
Senior BJP leaders have often reiterated that the party is committed to the implementation of both CAA and NRC in the country. Ministers in the Union government have blamed Opposition parties, especially the Congress, for instigating violence over the issue. “Opposition parties are fuelling protests against Citizenship Amendment Act," said G. Kishan Reddy, minister of state (MoS) for home affairs.
The Opposition has been continuing with its protests against the Act. Earlier it was largely expected that the Congress would lead the Opposition’s protests. But, with the exception of general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra holding a sit-in protest at India Gate in New Delhi on Tuesday, it is largely the party’s state units that have been holding the fort.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi held a meeting of party’s top leaders, including leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Union ministers A.K. Antony, and Anand Sharma, at her residence on Thursday to discuss the ongoing protests. Former party president and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi is with a foreign delegation in Seoul.
In tandem, the Opposition narrative has shifted to regional Opposition leaders who have been holding a series of protests over the last one week. These include West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham president M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu, and the Left parties whose top leaders such as Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist), and D. Raja of Communist Party of India were detained in the national capital during demonstrations on Thursday.
“We are not living in this country at mercy of others. The BJP wants to make the Citizenship (Amendment) Act a fight between Hindus and Muslims," Banerjee told a rally in Kolkata on the fourth straight day of protests led by her.