Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose Janata Dal (United) voted in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (now Act) in both Houses of Parliament, has now spoken about having a debate on the issue in the state assembly.
Speaking to journalists in his chamber, Nitish said though the new Act was under the purview of the central government, “there is no harm in holding a debate on the issue in the assembly”.
He also sought to “clarify” his stand on the contentious issues of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR), but left many, including members of his own party, confused.
“There is no question of implementing NRC. NRC was limited to Assam, and even the Prime Minister has clarified that there is no move to enforce NRC. On CAA, I am open for a debate in the Bihar assembly. The NPR has been taking place from 2010, there is nothing new in it,” Nitish said in the assembly before speaking to journalists.
The assembly was sitting for a special one-day session to ratify the 126th amendment of the Constitution, which facilitates extension of reservation for SC/STs for another 20 years.
The Bihar CM added his demand for a caste census. “A caste census is important and must be carried out. Both the legislative houses of Bihar have in the past adopted unanimous resolutions,” Nitish said.
No clarity within JD(U)
The CAA-NRC-NPR issue has become a problem for the JD(U) and Nitish. The party supported the citizenship legislation in Parliament, but soon after, leaders like party vice-president Prashant Kishor and spokesperson Pavan Varma denounced its stand. Now, leaders are unsure where exactly the JD(U) stands on the three-pronged issue.
Once the CAA was signed into law and protests against it began across the country, Nitish insisted there was no question of an NRC in Bihar, but then deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP declared that the NPR would be conducted in the state, and even announced the dates for it.
Senior leader Varma then shot off a letter to Nitish, asking him to oppose NPR and calling it the “first step” towards the NRC.
On Saturday, JD(U)’s parliamentary leader R.C.P. Sinha had declared that there was nothing wrong with the CAA, even though “individuals may have their own opinion”.
The next day, Kishor tweeted an assurance that the CAA and NRC would not be implemented in Bihar.
I join my voice with all to thank #Congress leadership for their formal and unequivocal rejection of #CAA_NRC. Both @rahulgandhi & @priyankagandhi deserves special thanks for their efforts on this count.
Also would like to reassure to all – बिहार में CAA-NRC लागू नहीं होगा।
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) January 12, 2020
On Monday, JD(U) president Nitish said he had not even seen the controversial new questions that have been added in the NPR form, such as parents’ place of birth, stating that he was busy with the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali Yatra until 19 January, when a human chain is to be formed in Bihar in support of the environmental drive.
Asked about Kishor’s tweet, the CM added “I am unaware of any such thing”, and promised a detailed statement after 19 January.
Opposition mystified too
Nitish’s statement on the issue has also left the opposition mystified.
“(Nitish’s) statement was aimed at creating confusion. The JD(U) supported the CAB in Parliament with the consent of CM Nitish Kumar. But he gets others in his party to speak against CAA,” RJD’s chief whip in the assembly, Lalit Yadav, told ThePrint.
“He could have extended the session of the House and held a debate on the three issues and clarified the three issues,” Yadav added.
BJP confident of JD(U) support
The BJP appears sure that Nitish will toe its line despite Kishor’s tweet indicating the contrary.
“The assurance was given by an individual. The fact is that CAA will influence only states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, where there is a large population of Hindus who have migrated after 1971,” said deputy CM Modi.
“In Bihar, there are refugees but they have all come before and now have all the legal documents to claim residency. The agitation launched by the opposition is aimed at luring a certain community.”
Modi’s earlier announcement of dates for the NPR process had led to an uproar from the JD(U), whose leaders questioned his authority to make such an announcement. Modi had then released a state government notification dated 10 December, indicating that Nitish was apprised of the development.