Patna/New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday declared that the planned National Register for Citizens(NRC) will not be implemented in the state, becoming the first major NDA ally to reject the controversial measure that has been stoutly opposed by several non-BJP chief ministers.
As the JD(U) veteran lends weight to the chorus against imposition of the NRC, the Centre sought to allay any fears about this massive exercise.
A top official of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) said anyone born in India before July 1, 1987 or whose parents were born before that date are bona fide Indian citizens according to law and need not worry due to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) or a possible countrywide NRC.
Amid nationwide protests against the new Citizenship law, Kumar spelt out his party’s stand in a terse reply to queries from journalists who sought his response on the proposed countrywide implementation of the NRC, including in Bihar.
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“Kaahe ka NRC? Bilkul laagu nahin hoga” (NRC, what for? Will not at all be implemented),” Kumar quipped on the sidelines of an event in Patna.
Notably, Kumar becomes the first chief minister from the NDA camp to voice disapproval of the move for a nationwide citizens register.
Kumar is heading a coalition government with the BJP in Bihar.
Another BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party also indicated its opposition to the NRC and sought to distance itself from the Union government over the citizenship law, asserting nationwide protests show that the Centre has “failed” to dispel confusion among a significant section of society.
LJP chief Chirag Paswan, whose party had backed the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament, noted that the protests are happening in various parts of the country with people linking the NRC to the amended law.
In the recent past, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her counterparts in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, Naveen Patnaik and Jaganmohan Reddy respectively besides those in the Congress-ruled states have spoken out against the proposed NRC which parties opposed to the BJP view as a move to polarize voters.
Known for choosing and timing his comments after much thought, Kumar came out with his assertion on the NRC, a day after he made it clear at a public meeting in Gaya he would “guarantee” that under his watch the minorities were not treated unfairly.
His averments could be seen as a gesture aimed at, simultaneously, assuring elements within the JD(U) headed by him who apprehend the party losing out on its Muslim base after supporting the Citizenship Bill as well as detractors, most notably RJD of arch rival Lalu Prasad, who have sharpened their attacks on the chief minister in the recent days.
Asked about the possibility of rolling out the NRC for the whole country, the MHA official said it was pre-mature to say anything on it as there has been no discussion on it.
“We also appeal to people to not compare the Citizenship Amendment Act with the NRC in Assam as the cut-off date for Assam is different,” the official added.
Upping the ante against the CAA, AICC General Secretary K C Venugopal said the “unconstitutional” legislation will not be implemented in the Congress-ruled states.
“No question of implementing this law in the Congress-ruled states… This is an unconstitutional law. The states cannot be forced to implement an unconstitutional legislation,” he told PTI in Kochi.
Noting that the legislation(CAA) has been challenged in the Supreme Court, Venugopal said “the states do not have the responsibility to implement an unconstitutional law.”
But the Centre said the state governments have no powers to reject the implementation of the CAA as the legislation was enacted under the Union List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, and the National Population Register (NPR) which is to be carried out next year.
The statement by the MHA official came after chief ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh announced that the CAA was “unconstitutional” and has no place in their respective states.
“The states have no powers to deny implementation of a central law which is in the Union List,” the official said.
There are 97 items under the Union List of the 7th Schedule and they include Defence, External Affairs, Railways, Citizenship and Naturalisation.
Referring to the NPR to be carried out along with the census exercise next year, the official said no state can refuse to carry out the process as it will be done as per the Citizenship Act.