The party and government adopt a brazen note when they want to while claiming to be carrying out a ‘fair’ exercise.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sunday adopted a belligerent stance on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, on behalf of not just the party but also the Narendra Modi-led government.
At the end of its two-day national executive meet, the BJP resolved that “the PM Modi-led Indian government will not allow India to be used as a safe haven by illegal infiltrators” and that “each infiltrator will be identified, stripped of citizenship and deported.”
The BJP’s stated stance comes just a month after the Supreme Court severely reprimanded NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela and registrar general Sailesh for talking to the media about how authorities would deal with the claims and objections filed by those left out in the final draft of 30 July.
“You are officers of the court, whatever you say reflects on us… What is your authority to make such statements? What impelled you to go to the press like this?” the SC asked.
The court ire stemmed from the fact that NRC is entirely an SC-monitored exercise, and at each stage is carried out under the court’s supervision. Thus, if the statements of these authorities were problematic, those of the BJP on behalf of its government would seem even more so.
A matter of convenience
The BJP has decided to make the NRC entirely a matter of convenience for itself. It chooses to appear mature when it suits it and becomes provocative when it feels the situation so demands.
To begin with, the government, PM Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh among others, had earlier clearly advised restraint. On Sunday, however, the party shed all its pretence of restraint and casually threw in words like ghuspaithiye (infiltrators), attributing the statements to the PM Modi government. Neither Modi nor Singh can absolve themselves in this case, given the stance was arrived at during a meet of the top brass. If in future, they choose to try to appear statesman-like once again in the matter, it will be entirely for their own convenience.
More problematically, the BJP spoke on behalf of the government, claiming “each infiltrator will be deported”. The fact, however, is that no formal discussion, leave alone decision, has been taken on how those eventually found to be non-citizens would be dealt with.
For the party to jump the gun and talk of deportation, even while the exercise is still on, seems highly questionable, given some officials were pulled up by the court for talking about the next step in the process.
What the BJP managed to twist the most to its convenience, meanwhile, is the entire nature of the exercise. The party has claimed that “as soon as the PM Modi government came to power, the process of implementing this in a scientific and transparent manner, which is why the final draft could come out on 31 July 2018.”
It is, in fact, the SC that had ordered the exercise be initiated, in tune with the 1985 Assam Accord. The process started under the Congress government in the state in 2015, and by the time the BJP government came to power in 2016, the process of verification was already on. The apex court has been setting all deadlines for NRC, with the BJP government asking for extensions on more than one occasion.
The BJP has constantly slammed the opposition for politicising the issue. But by talking about it audaciously in the same breath as the Citizenship Amendment Bill – which seeks to grant citizenship to illegal Hindu immigrants – it seems to be playing convenient politics to appeal to its Hindu majoritarian electorate.
Besides conveniently appropriating the exercise of updating NRC and taking all credit for it, the BJP has decided to use it as a malleable electoral tool, allowing the party and government to adopt a brazen, intimidating note when it wants to, even while claiming to be carrying out the exercise in fairness.