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Clear link connects Citizenship Act, NRC and NPR, says Prashant Kishor

Prashant Kishor: ‘What is stopping the Congress president from issuing a single line official statement that says that States under Congress rule will not implement NRC?’

Prashant Kishor: ‘What is stopping the Congress president from issuing a single line official statement that says that States under Congress rule will not implement NRC?’   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Janata Dal(U) vice-president Prashant Kishor termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement — on there being no discussions on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) within the government — a “tactical retreat” because of widespread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the BJP’s commitment to a nation-wide NRC.

Speaking exclusively to The Hindu, Mr. Kishor said, “I see it [Prime Minister Modi’s statement] as a tactical retreat to douse the fire after the massive protests we are seeing across the country.”

He said there was a straight connection between the CAA, the NRC and the National Population Register (NPR).

“As far as this whole effort to separate the National Population Register (NPR) and NRC too, let me explain how they are connected. If you knead dough to make bread, you may say that the two — kneading and making bread — are separate processes; you may not finally bake the bread. But the kneading of the dough is an announcement of the intent to bake bread. So the whole idea of saying that the NPR process is not connected to NRC is useless. If you want to dispel doubts, say plainly that there will be no NRC after the NPR process. Currently the government has only said that there have been no discussions over the NRC. Neither Prime Minister Modi nor Home Minister Amit Shah has said there will not be any NRC, while the Cabinet has cleared a budget for NPR,” he said.

The JD(U) leader was also sharply critical of the Congress for not going the whole hog on the CAA-NRC issue.

“Many Chief Ministers have said they will not implement the NRC. That is the only credible way of stopping this. In fact, a couple of Chief Ministers, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, have stopped the NPR process too, which is the starting point for NRC. Congress’ Chief Ministers too say this, but there is a problem there. While Banerjee, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Naveen Patnaik are Chief Ministers, they are also heads of their parties. In the case of the Congress, the CMs per se are not the head of their parties; the party’s policy is decided by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and the Congress president... All I am saying is that if you are so opposed, what is stopping the Congress president from issuing a single line official statement that States under Congress rule will not implement NRC?” he asked.

‘Roots lie in 2003’

On the current issues surrounding the CAA, he said the roots were in the 2003 amendments to the Act, which tasked the government with preparing an NRC. Mr Kishor questioned why the Congress had not repealed the amendment when it held power between 2004 and 2014.

“Beyond 2014, in the last couple of days we are hearing from Congress leaders that Prime Minister Modi and Mr. Shah have contradicted their own stance, after having declared their intention of carrying through the NRC. Show me, even one occasion when the Congress has protested when Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah made these public statements of their intent to go through with the NRC. Yes, questions were asked in Parliament, to which the government has said that they are going to go forward with an NPR and NRC, what was Congress doing then? Did citizens hear any vociferous opposition from the Congress to even the statements of the government?”

On his own party’s vote for the CAA in Parliament and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s declaration later that the NRC will not be implemented in the State, Mr. Kishor said while the vote was a fact, “credit” should be given to Mr. Kumar for his stand on the NRC.

“I have personally said, together with many other colleagues, that this is not consistent with the party’s stance in the past. After the vote though, consultation or pressure has had a bearing, and now Nitish Kumar ji has said on record that he is against the NRC and there will be no NRC exercise in Bihar. It is very important for your readers to also understand here that CAA per se, discriminatory as it is, is not as problematic as it is when clubbed with the NRC. Unless the process of NRC is completed there is no way that the government can discriminate against people, a provision that comes through the CAA. Thus even those who voted for the CAA in Parliament can stop the discrimination that the NRC will engender,” he said.

Watch | Prashant Kishor speaks on CAA, NRC
 

Full text of the interview:

‘If you want to dispel doubts, say plainly that there will be no NRC after the NPR process’

Your party did vote in favour of CAA while you oppose it. How do you square this divergence in stance?

I have been on record on the issue of the CAA and the NRC, and in my opinion, all right-minded Indians should oppose this idea, especially this combination, as it is against the spirit of our Constitution and also what our founding fathers intended of a country based on equality and non-discrimination on the basis of religion and class.

Having said so, it is correct that the JD(U) did vote in favour of the CAA in Parliament, and I have vocally opposed that stand. I have personally said, together with many other colleagues, that this is not consistent with the party’s stance in the past. After the vote though, consultation or pressure has had a bearing, and now Nitish Kumarji has said on record that he is against the NRC and there will be no NRC exercise in Bihar.

It is very important for your readers to also understand here that CAA per se, discriminatory as it is, is not as problematic as it is when clubbed with the NRC. Unless the process of NRC is completed there is no way that the government can discriminate against people, a provision that comes through the CAA. Thus even those who voted in the CAA in Parliament can stop the discrimination that the NRC will engender. That works vice versa too. You might have opposed the CAA in Parliament, but if you don’t stop the NRC on the ground, you could still end up being part of the discrimination.

Who dropped the ball in the JD(U) on voting for the Bill?

That is something only Nitish Kumarji can explain, because the party’s stance has been that there is no need for NRC in the country. The exception that you are referring to is that act of voting. Perhaps the party’s parliamentary committee might have taken this decision. How much of the information in totality was shared with Nitish Kumarji, only he can say.

We cannot deny that the party voted as it did, but at the end of the day, and I cannot emphasise this enough, the party is firm on its commitment on not implementing the NRC, and not because of me, but because of Nitish Kumarji. You must give credit where it is due. I’m sure people like you will grill Mr Kumar on CAA as well.

Several Chief Ministers have also said that they not allow implementation of the NRC, and after your tweets asking the Congress leadership to declare this, there have been statements. So why are you still pointing out that the Congress needs to speak out?

The only effective way to stop the combination of CAA and NRC, since the CAA is the law of the land, is either to repeal CAA, which is not possible as those who have a majority in Parliament have passed it, or do two things. One, for citizens to hit the streets in protest, raise their voice and make the government understand that we are not comfortable with it. The Congress, has not been necessarily very aggressively with the citizens on the streets. They have joined, but much later. To give an example, former president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi used the phrase NRC for the first time on December 16.

Watch | Amit Shah: No link between NRC and NPR
 

There are possible reasons for the Congress’ approach. Readers should understand that everything we are seeing today, the seeds of it were sowed in 2003, when the CAA was amended, and it was clearly mentioned that Government of India may prepare an NRC, not National Population Register (NPR), but the NRC. Since then for 10 years, Congress was in power; they failed to amend the Act.

Either they were not paying attention to this or were simply ignorant. Beyond 2014, in the last couple of days we are hearing from Congress leaders that Prime Minister Modi and Mr Shah have contradicted their own stance, after having declared their intention of carrying through the NRC. Show me, even one occasion when the Congress has protested when Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah made these public statements of their intent to go through with the NRC. Yes, questions were asked in Parliament, to which government has said they are going to go forward with an NPR and NRC. What was Congress doing? Did citizens hear any vociferous opposition from the Congress to even the statements of the government?

What kind of action then do you want from the Congress? And Why?

First of all you made the mistake of not correcting the law; secondly in the last six-seven years, you did not make your voice strong enough as an opposition to make the government heed you, and once the Act has been brought in you are still indulging in tokenism.

In my mind, the only way to have this Act stopped is to stop its implementation. How do you do that? By making sure that States that have to implement the process of NRC refuse to do so. Many State chief ministers, as you have seen, have come out and said they will not implement the NRC. That is the only credible way of stopping this.

In fact, couple of chief ministers, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala have stopped the NPR process too, which is the starting point for NRC. After all this, Congress’s chief ministers too say this, but there is a problem there.

 

While Ms. Banerjee, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Naveen Patnaik are chief ministers, they are also head of their parties. In the case of the Congress, the CMs per se are not the head of their parties; the party’s policy is decided by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and the Congress president.

All I am saying is that if you are so opposed, what is stopping the Congress president from issuing a single line official statement that says that States under Congress rule will not implement NRC? The Congress is more under obligation to do this than the BJP, since the latter is undertaking its stated agenda and has the right to go ahead with it, but the parties that have got those millions of votes which haven’t gone to the BJP have a responsibility to give voice and take forward the opposition to the Act.

Congress is the principle opposition, neither Arvind Kejriwal or Mamata Banerjee are that. More than 12 crore people have reposed their faith in the Congress, how can they shy away from their responsibilities.

Why do you think the Congress is shying away?

There are in my mind, four reasons. Perhaps because someone may point out its own history of not repealing this Act, when in power, when it was so bad and unconstitutional; secondly, they may be questioned on what did they do when this particular government informed that NRC would be implemented; thirdly, they may have simply been lazy or confused on how to tackle it politically; the fourth and most important point is that they may be fearing the impact of this issue in terms of electoral polarisation. Otherwise I fail to understand what might be preventing the Congress leadership (CWC or party president) from issuing a one line statement saying plainly that no NRC would be implemented in Congress-ruled States.

 

Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have said that CAA has nothing to do with NRC and that nothing formal has been done to go ahead with the latter. What do you make of it?

In one line, I see it as a tactical retreat to douse the fire after the massive protests we are seeing across the country. As far as this whole effort to separate the National Population Register (NPR) and NRC too, let me explain how they are connected. If you knead dough to make bread, you may say that the two, kneading and making bread are separate processes, you may not finally bake the bread, but the kneading of the dough is an announcement of the intent to bake bread. So the whole idea of saying that the NPR process is not connected to NRC is useless.

If you want to dispel doubts, say plainly that there will be no NRC after the NPR process. Currently the government has only said that, as of now, there have been no discussions over the NRC. Neither Prime Minister Modi nor Home Minister Amit Shah have said there will not be any NRC, while the Cabinet has cleared a budget for NPR.

Watch | Amit Shah: No link between NRC and NPR
 

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 9:23:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/prashant-kishor-interview-if-you-want-to-dispel-doubts-say-plainly-that-there-will-be-no-nrc-after-the-npr-process/article30396167.ece

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