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Bihar on NRC: Is Nitish Kumar asserting himself successfully or is this BJP’s retreat?

The Bihar assembly Tuesday passed a resolution against the NRC, making it the first NDA-ruled state to oppose the contentious exercise.

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The Bihar assembly this week passed a resolution against the NRC, making it the first NDA-ruled state to oppose the contentious exercise. The poll-bound state also passed a resolution to implement the NPR in its 2010 form. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had called the BJP’s nationwide NRC plan “needless” and without “justification”.

ThePrint asks: Bihar on NRC: Is Nitish Kumar asserting himself successfully or is this BJP’s retreat?

Nitish took decision to strengthen NDA’s vote bank in Bihar. Opposition can’t make NRC an issue anymore now

Prem Ranjan Patel
Bihar BJP spokesperson 

PM Narendra Modi had clarified in December 2019 that there has been no discussion on the topic of a nationwide NRC. The opposition is over-emphasising the issue of the NRC and the NPR. By passing the resolution, Nitish Kumar has only made it difficult for opposition parties to use the issue of NRC-NPR to their advantage. He has taken this decision to strengthen the NDA’s vote bank in Bihar.

Even on the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, Nitish Kumar had supported the Modi government’s move in Parliament. The NRC and the NPR are not election issues in Bihar. In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal chose the middle path and stayed away from Shaheen Bagh, and still managed to get the Muslim vote. This proves that these are not prevalent issues in state assembly elections.

Nitish Kumar has been chosen as the leader of the coalition in Bihar by the BJP. Whatever decisions are taken, both the BJP and the JD(U) are in it together. The BJP did not oppose the resolution in the assembly, we unanimously supported it. We will fight the election with Nitish Kumar as the face of the NDA in Bihar and Narendra Modi as the face of the central government.

Nitish Kumar is a statesman & social reformer. Goal has been to keep Bihar free from societal tension

Neeraj Kumar
JD(U) leader and Information and Public Relations Minister, Bihar

The fact that the JD(U) opposes the NRC and the NPR and supports the NPR in its 2010 format was already established in the public domain. The resolution that we have passed in the Bihar assembly clearly states that nationwide NRC is not required. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained that no such plan is on the table for now. Deputy CM Sushil Modi has tweeted in support of this decision.

CM Nitish Kumar had quoted PM Modi and the standing committee of Parliament in the Bihar assembly. The resolution has been unanimously passed. It is the RJD whose hypocrisy has been unveiled. Earlier, Lalu Prasad Yadav had supported the NRC in Parliament’s standing committee and RJD’s national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh had made a statement in the Lok Sabha in its favour. They should clarify their stand instead of taking credit for the passage of the resolution.

Nitish Kumar’s image has not only been that of a statesman but also of a social reformer. No other CM in Bihar’s recent political history has focussed on issues related to dowry and liquor consumption. It shouldn’t matter who wins or who loses, our goal is to keep Bihar free from societal tension. The anti-NRC resolution is in favour of the people of Bihar, which is why we passed it.

BJP has only to gain from Nitish Kumar’s efforts to win votes by passing resolution against NRC

Shivanand Tiwari
National Vice President, RJD

The NPR-NRC issue is not as important. The country is restless because of the amendment in the Citizenship Act. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already clarified on behalf of the Narendra Modi government that some of the NPR data may or may not be used in the nationwide NRC exercise. The nationwide NRC project is not on the table right now, as declared by PM Modi.

So, by passing a resolution against the NRC and the NPR in Bihar assembly, Nitish Kumar has attempted to revive his much-maligned secular image, on which even the BJP would not be able to raise an objection.

Neither the BJP is going to break alliance with Nitish Kumar nor Nitish Kumar can part ways with the BJP. Both of them understand this compulsion very well.

The BJP has become even more cautious after its defeat in Jharkhand and Delhi assembly elections. It has understood that it cannot win state elections based on national issues. If Nitish Kumar is trying to increase his vote share by passing a resolution against the NRC and the NPR, then the BJP has more to gain than lose. So, why would the BJP make an enemy out of Nitish Kumar on an issue that it doesn’t see harming the party much?

Nitish’s stand is anchored both by his ideology and his efforts to rebuild his image as a secular leader

Nawal Kishore Chaudhary
Former professor, Patna University and political commentator

It is primarily an assertion of the Nitish Kumar government and partly a retreat of the BJP. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is only getting stronger by day whereas the BJP is getting weaker in view of these nationwide anti-CAA protests.

Nitish has always projected himself as a secular and socialist leader. When he joined hands with the BJP, his secular image was dented but not demolished. No one in Bihar would consider him to be anti-Muslim and anti-secular. This is the reason why political forces and parties, especially those considered secular, have always been trying to win over Nitish Kumar and get him on their side. This is what we saw when Nitish formed an alliance with the RJD and the Congress for the 2015 Bihar election, only to part ways later. His opposition to the NRC and the NPR has to be seen in the light of his political background.

Nitish has been a master political craftsman. He realises that winning even a small percentage of minority votes would help him retain his image of a secular leader. It is also very clear for the BJP and the NDA that it is not wise for them to focus on the divide on religious lines. So, Nitish’s present stand on NRC-NPR is anchored both by his ideology and his efforts to rebuild his image as a leader of all sections of society.

Also read: Delhi riots: Is CM Arvind Kejriwal actually powerless or using it as an excuse?

By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. Everything should not become a prestige issue, to be fought over till the last breath. A pan Indian NRC would make Demonetisation look like milk and honey. For that matter, this NPR with parent’s date and place of birth – reflecting Rajiv Gandhi’s thoughtless amendment to the Citizenship Act – will achieve nothing beyond messing up the normal decennial Census. 2. CM Nitish Kumar faces a tough election for a fourth term. Not merited on performance. Might materialise because the RJD and the Congress are in a mess. So let him act sensibly. The BJP cannot afford another loss in Bihar.

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