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NRC row will destroy ties with Bangladesh, warns Mamata Banerjee

Banerjee questioned why the government was focusing only on illegal migrants from Bangladesh, when India also hosts a sizeable migrant population from Nepal.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Keeping her guns trained on the BJP dispensation over the controversial exclusion of 40 lakh residents of Assam from its draft National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Trinamool supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued to fire salvos at the saffron party on Wednesday over its alleged divisive plan. She warned that this NRC row “destroy” India’s relationship with Bangladesh.

Banerjee also reportedly said she was not vying to be the Prime Minister and that the first priority of a combined Opposition would be to defeat the BJP which, she added, was “scared and nervous” to face the 2019 Lok Sabha elections due to the Opposition’s unity.

“The NRC will destroy relationship between India and Bangladesh. Out of 40 lakh people whose names are not in the list of NRC, only 1 per cent could be illegal infiltrators. But the BJP is trying to show that all those not included (in NRC) are infiltrators,” Banerjee told reporters, pointing out that India enjoys excellent relations with Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh is not a terrorist country. After Independence, many people from Pakistan came to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab. From Bangladesh too, people came to Tripura, West Bengal, Bihar and many other states. They are not infiltrators or terrorists. Is it a crime that Bangladesh and we (West Bengal) share the same mother tongue? They (the BJP-led Centre) think, anybody who speaks Bangla is a Bangladeshi,” the Bengal CM said.

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Banerjee also questioned why the government was focusing only on illegal migrants from Bangladesh, when India also hosts a sizeable migrant population from Nepal. Illegal migration, she asserted, was not a onetime, isolated issue involving only Bangladesh. “Borders are not with state governments but with the Centre,” she added, making it clear that the onus of securing the borders lies on the Centre.

The Trinamool chief also charged that the BJP was playing “vote bank politics” on the NRC issue. “Whoever is a BJP voter will be in the list… those who are not, will be deleted from the list…Will you drive out everyone in the name of Bangladeshis?” she asked.

She appealed to all Opposition parties to send their delegations to Assam. Banerjee maintained that the NRC exercise was being carried out by the BJP, which rules both the Centre and Assam, with a “political motive” to “divide and isolate people” which, she again warned, would lead to “bloodbath and civil war” in the country.

On the third day of her visit to New Delhi, Banerjee, who has been going all out to forge a united Opposition front to take on the BJP, met a slew of Opposition leaders including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

READ | Mamata Banerjee meets Rahul, Sonia Gandhi in attempt to build anti-BJP front

Apart from leaders of the Congress, TDP, SP, JD-S, YSR(Congress), DMK, RJD, and NCP, she also met BJP stalwart L K Advani, dissident BJP leaders, and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut. She met most of these leaders at Parliament House.

The Trinamool chief also invited the Opposition leaders as well as Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to her 19 January rally in Kolkata, which is expected to be a mega show of a combined Opposition against the Narendra Modi dispensation in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.

“The Opposition is united…. In 2019, BJP will be finished…We will take a decision on collective leadership,” Banerjee reportedly told media persons after her meeting with the Gandhis at Sonia’s 10 Janpath residence this evening.

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She said they discussed the NRC issue and “how the Opposition can together take on the BJP”. Asked about the PM candidate of the proposed anti-BJP front, Banerjee said, “It will be decided later. The first priority is to defeat the BJP.”

Attacking the Centre on the NRC issue, she also said, “People whose names have been kept out are from Bihar, UP, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal. We want them to live peacefully. Some of them have been living for 100 years for five generations in Assam. How can you do this to them?”

Banerjee charged, “The BJP knows what will happen to them in 2019 as they will not come back to power. That is why they are trying to create such an atmosphere and doing all this.”