Both the CAA & NRC have been contentious issues which led to widespread protests across the country. Various political parties changed their stand on these issues over a period of time. We take a look at the parties and their changing stand on these issues.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been contentious issues since their conception. Refugees, illegal migration, cultural identity, language, religion etc are few of the many factors that have influenced the discourse around citizenship and NRC.
Various political parties over a period of time have changed their stand depending on their political alliance, prevailing mood, political opportunity etc.
In this story, we look at the different stands taken by the political parties and their leaders on NRC & CAA.
Shiv Sena – from a key proponent of NRC to Uncertainty
Shiv Sena was a long-term ally of BJP and was one of the most ideologically close partners in NDA. Unlike its current uncertain stand on CAA and NRC, the party earlier had an assertive stand on these issues.
In August 2018, Shiv Sena came out in support of Narendra Modi’s government with respect to the implementation of NRC.
Post the implementation of NRC in Assam, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, who was also the Union Minister for Heavy Industries in Narendra Modi’s cabinet has lauded the NRC activity undertaken in Assam.
Speaking to reporters on 31 August 2019, he stated that NRC in Assam was helpful in resolving the problems of original inhabitants of that region, and hence they supported the government. He further went on to say that the same needs to be implemented in Mumbai as well.
When the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB) was presented in the Lok Sabha, Shiv Sena voted in favour of the bill. However, when the bill was presented in the Rajya Sabha, the party abstained from voting and were not present when the voting process took place in the house.
On its part, Shiv Sena maintained that they staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha since they did not get any satisfactory answers to their concerns over the bill.
The official stance of Shiv Sena on CAA is still uncertain as they await the Supreme Court’s judgement on a clutch of petitions filed on the constitutionality of the CAA. Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray, the CM of Maharashtra and Shiv Sena chief while meeting a delegation of Muslim representatives recently, stated that CAA would not be implemented in Maharashtra.
Its’ coalition partners in Maharashtra government i.e. INC & NCP are opposing NRC and CAA, which may be influencing the recent shift away from Shiv Sena’s pro-NRC stand.
Congress: Support NRC & Oppose CAA in Assam, but oppose both elsewhere
The Indian National Congress is at the forefront of opposing both CAA as well as NRC. The party has voted against the bill in both the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress and its allies across the country are leading the protests in opposing CAA and NRC. Contrary to its firm stand against the nationwide NRC, the Congress was supportive of NRC in Assam.
In an interview in July 2018, the former Congress Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi claimed that it is the Congress party which initiated the process of NRC in Assam.
The BJP, whose government undertook the activity of NRC in Assam following the directions of the Supreme court, claims that it is in accordance with the Assam accord, signed by Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India from Congress party in 1985, that NRC in Assam was undertaken. Factly has written a story earlier, which provides details of the Assam Accord.
The opposition of the Congress about the NRC in Assam was with respect to the implementation, especially with claims of over 40 lakh people being excluded in the draft NRC. Meanwhile, Assam’s state Congress has not been clear in its opposition to NRC when the draft was released.
In an attempt to counter CAA, the Assam state Congress made public statements supporting NRC and claimed that CAA goes against the purpose of NRC and the tenets of the Assam Accord.
Mamata Banerjee: Opposed illegal migrants a decade ago, now opposes NRC & CAA
Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal and chief of Trinamool Congress is one of those CMs who made a public statement that they would not be supporting the implementation of CAA in their state.
On 05 December 2019, Parliamentary affairs minister of West Bengal, Partha Chatterjee stated that the party would be opposing NRC & CAB.
While, as per their current stand, Mamata Banerjee and TMC state that there is fear of people losing their citizenship status through the NRC, she had in 2005 raised the issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in West Bengal, when she was in the opposition.
One of the main concerns of TMC about the NRC in Assam was the possible migration of those who could not prove their citizenship into West Bengal and also a backlash towards the Bengalis living in Assam and North-East.
By extending citizenship under CAA to the persecuted minorities from the three countries, the concern is that West Bengal might need to absorb a significant portion of such migrants from Bangladesh as West Bengal shares a long boundary with Bangladesh.
Some Regional Parties announce opposition to NRC after supporting CAA
While Shiv Sena voted for CAB in the Lok Sabha and abstained from voting in the Rajya Sabha, other regional parties like TRS, DMK have voted against it in both the houses.
However, parties like JD(U), BJD, YSRCP , TDP, AIADMK, Akali Dal etc have voted in favour of CAB in both the houses. The BJP was able to pass the bill in Lok Sabha due to its own majority, however, in the Rajya Sabha, these regional parties played the key role in ensuring the bill was passed where BJP did not have the required numbers on its own.
However, post the passage of the CAB in parliament, few of these regional parties announced their opposition to a nationwide NRC.
Naveen Patnaik, CM of Odisha and the Chief of BJD said that they would not be supporting NRC. He reiterated that the reason for supporting CAB was because the bill applies only to foreigners and does not have any bearing on Indian Citizens.
Similarly, YSRCP which supported CAB in both the houses, confirmed that they would be opposing NRC in any form. The Deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, SB Amzath Basha has on 18 December 2019, conveyed their party’s stand on NRC and clarified that they supported CAB only after receiving assurances from the centre that it would not be affecting the Muslims who are citizens of the country.
Akali Dal, an ally of BJP while supporting CAB in both the houses has raised the question of not including Muslims in the CAB.
Continuing their stand to include Muslims in Citizenship Bill, Akali Dal has recently said that they would not be supporting NRC.
Meanwhile, JD (U) which is a key ally of BJP in the ruling coalition in Bihar is split on the issue of CAB and NRC. The party has supported CAB in both the houses. However, since the beginning, there has been dissent within the party about the leadership’s stand especially of Nitish Kumar, the CM of Bihar and party chief. Party’s General secretary Pawan Varma and Party’s Vice President Prashant Kishore were few of the senior leaders who have expressed their dissent. The JD(U) has now announced that they are also against a nationwide NRC and demanded that the BJP immediately convent a meeting of NDA allies on the issue.
BJP now backtracks, says no official discussion on NRC yet
Addressing the Rajya Sabha on 20 November 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated that there would be a nationwide NRC. There has also been a mention of the same in BJP’s manifesto for 2019 General elections.
However, addressing a political rally recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that, there has been no discussion on NRC by his government since 2014. Furthermore, Amit Shah in an interview with ANI has stated that currently there is no discussion on a nationwide NRC.
Most parties vacillated in their support or opposition to NRC
Most of the political parties have had a change in their stand on CAA and NRC over a period of time. For a party like INC, which has a pan-India base, its views on NRC in Assam and for rest of India varies. Even the rationale for opposing CAA is different when it comes to the North-East and the rest of India.
Trinamool Congress had its apprehensions about illegal migrants. However, now it has a major concern about exclusion in the name of religion in CAA-2019.
The country has witnessed widespread protests in opposition to CAA, especially over exclusion of Muslims and prospect of a nationwide NRC. The extent of these continuing protests could have influenced the political parties to change their stand accordingly. It is surprising to note that political parties that have supported the CAB are now trying to differentiate between CAA and NRC and their diverse stand on both these issues.