Problems continue to confront the ruling NDA alliance in Bihar. Even as chief minister Nitish Kumar has opposed Centre’s proposed National Register for Citizens (NRC), the ruling NDA partners—JD-U and the BJP—are again engaged in conflict over the issue of National Population Register (NPR).
While the deputy chief minister and senior-most BJP leader from Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi declared that the updation process of the contentious NPR would begin from May, the JD-U has rejected such announcement saying no such decision has been taken by the state government so far. He described Modi’s announcement as his “personal observation”.
“Any decision about the NPR will be taken only by the chief minister or his Cabinet. Nitish Kumar is the head of the government but he has not given any such statement so far,” senior JD-U leader and industry minister Shyam Rajak told newsmen on Sunday.
Rajak said no such proposal had been discussed either at the meeting of the NDA legislature party or in the Cabinet so far. Also, the chief minister never mentioned such things, he said. “So, it is not relevant to us. I respect Sushil Modi but it was not the decision taken by the Cabinet,” Rajak told newsmen adding “everybody has a right to speak in views”.
The two partners locked horns moments after Modi announced the “NPR updation plan” in Bihar and also mentioned the dates from when the process would start while interacting with the media on Saturday. Modi had said the NPR updation process would start from May 15 in Bihar.
He went on to add that administrative and punitive action would be taken against officials if they refuse to carry out the constitution-mandated NPR and dared the West Bengal and Kerala governments not to implement the NPR and CAA if they can.
The move is likely to cause further bitterness in the relations between the two NDA partners in the state. Although the JD-U supported the Citizenship Bill in the Parliament, the party has been split over the issue with a section of senior leaders such as national vice-president Prashant Kishor and national general secretary Pavan Kumar Varma strongly opposing the CAA in public. On Sunday, Varma even shot off a letter to the chief minister urging him to categorically reject the “divisive CAA-NPR-NRC” scheme. He also objected to the way Modi made a unilateral announcement about NPR implementation in Bihar from May this year.
Kishor, on the other hand, has likened NRC to “demonetisation of citizenship”.
“The idea of nation-wide NRC is equivalent to demonetisation of citizenship…invalid till your prove it otherwise. The biggest sufferers would be the poor and the marginalised…we know from the experience,” he said.