A day after the Bihar Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against implementing the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and for updating the National Population Register (NPR) based on the 2010 format in the State, some local leaders of the ruling alliance partner, the BJP, acknowledged on Wednesday that they had been “caught off guard”.
Describing the move as a “master stroke” by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, political analyst Ajay Kumar said the JD(U) President had simultaneously achieved multiple objectives.
“With this single stroke in the Assembly yesterday, Nitish Kumar did three things: he silenced the Opposition’s protest to make the CAA, NRC and NPR a big issue in the State; assuaged the ruffled feelings of the Muslims here; and thirdly, relayed a message to the BJP loud and clear that only he is the big brother in Bihar,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu . He added that “by declaring that the government would implement the NPR in its 2010 format, Nitish Kumar also sent a message to his Extremely Backward Class (EBC) voters, who would have had to face more inconvenience in filling up the new format containing more complex clauses”.
On Tuesday, Bihar became the first NDA-ruled State to unanimously pass a resolution against the proposed NRC and sources in the ruling alliance told The Hindu that the “script for it was written when BJP president J. P. Nadda had met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during his recent visit to Bihar”. However, only a select few senior State BJP leaders were privy to the development. “We were caught completely off guard with the BJP MLAs supporting the resolution in the Assembly yesterday… when the BJP changed its strategy on the issue was not known to us or, not been informed,” State BJP leader and party MLC Sachhidanand Rai said. Earlier, party MLA and minister Prem Kumar too had expressed surprise over the “sudden development”. Some other BJP MLAs, who spoke to The Hindu , also echoed a similar sentiment, adding that they had been told not to make any comment to the media on the issue. “When our top State party leaders did not oppose or say anything on it, what do you expect us to say…its up to them to take a call on it,” was a common refrain among these leaders.
Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) leader and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi observed that it was a ‘smart move’ by the JD(U) leader, before adding, “if he comes to the grand alliance he would be our chief ministerial candidate”.
Leaders of the opposition RJD, however, asserted that Mr. Kumar had been forced to introduce the resolution because of the sustained protests against the CAA, NRC and NPR. “The government surrendered to unanimously pass the resolution against NRC and NPR in Assembly because of our sustained protests against it… we’ll protest implementation of CAA as well in the State”, tweeted Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Tejashwi Yadav . He also took a dig at the BJP MLAs and remarked that “they just gawked in utter surprise over the development”.
JD(U) leader and Parliamentary affairs minister Shrawan Kumar, however, dismissed the opposition’s attempts to take credit and said, “Tejashwi Yadav may claim that the resolution against NRC and doing NPR in the 2010 format in the Assembly was a victory for them but, actually Nitish Kumar has exposed the Opposition and their attempt to malign the government on the issue”.
Meanwhile, poll strategist and erstwhile JD(U) leader Prashant Kishor, who had earlier urged Mr. Kumar not to support the CAA, NRC and NPR in the State, took to Twitter on Wednesday to thank the Bihar chief minister for “sticking up to his words”. “But, beyond this, there are larger issues concerning the interest of Bihar and the social harmony around us. We can only hope that you would stay true to your inner conscience and stand up on both these counts as well,” tweeted Mr. Kishor.
Both, Mr Kishor and former party leader Pawan Varma were recently expelled from the JD(U) for questioning the party’s stand on the issues of CAA, NRC and NPR.