Rakesh Sinha. Image Courtesy : New Indian Express
Patna: Contrary to Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United’s (JD-U’s) stand against National Register for Citizens (NRC), its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party wants the NRC to be implemented in Seemanchal, a Muslim-dominated backward region of the state. It was revealed by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha, who is also considered to be close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“We strongly favour NRC in Seemanchal region of Bihar. NRC should be implemented there like Assam to flush out all those from Bangladesh who had settled there,” Sinha said.
Sinha, a vocal champion of the BJP’s Hindutva politics, said the population in Bihar’s bordering districts has been increasing. This proves that large number of Bangladeshis were settled in the Seemanchal region.
“There is an urgent need of NRC in Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnea and Araria districts,” he added.
For BJP and RSS, Seemanchal is a priority area as the concentration of Muslim population is highest there, and the BJP has so far failed to make much inroad in the region. In the Seemanchal region, Muslims account for 67.70% of the population in Kishanganj, 38% in Purnea, 43% in Katihar and over 40% in Araria. However, Muslims only form 16.5% of Bihar's 105 million population as per 2011 census.
Also read: BJP Opposes NRC in Assam But Pushes It Across Country
Taking this into consideration, BJP had played cautiously in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by giving all four seats to its ally, JD-U, that won three and Congress managed to win the Kishanganj seat. Kishanganj is widely seen as a Congress stronghold as the party has won the LS seat eight times. The BJP has won once, when its candidate Shahnawaz Hussain was elected in 1999.
Flood-prone Kishanganj, part of Seemanchal region, has some of the worst development statistics not only in Bihar but in India. It has a per capita annual income of Rs 9,928 (as per the Economic Survey 2018-19) with a literacy rate of 57.04%. While the women illiteracy rate is as high as 84%, nearly 60% of the population is below poverty line. The dropout rate after high school is as high as 98%.
Experts in several studies have observed that the poor socio-economic condition is responsible for large-scale migration from Kishanganj and other Seemanchal districts.
These poor and under-developed districts of Bihar have emerged as a hub of cheap migrant labourers, who are forced to migrate to developed states for their livelihood. Even though till date, none of the major leaders of the state’s BJP has raised the issue of NRC in Bihar, Sinha’s statement holds much significance as he is the face of RSS in media and regularly places its agenda forward.
“Sooner or later BJP will raise this NRC issue in the state. We don’t want to put it out now,” a senior BJP leader told NewsClick.
However, it appears clearly that the ruling NDA is divided over NRC with JD-U opposing it publicly.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is also JD-U president, has repeatedly said that his party is not in favour of NRC. It has also reflected in the statements of the party’s National Vice President Prashant Kishor and National General Secretary K C Tyagi.
Tyagi categorically said that there is no need of NRC in Bihar or other states in the country. “NRC is a very sensitive issue and it was implemented in Assam following clearance from the Supreme Court,” he said.
He added that his party is fully against sending citizens outside the country in the name of NRC.
Prashant Kishor, who is a known election strategist and close aide of Nitish Kumar, two days ago opposed the NRC, saying that it is a ‘botched up’ process meant to leave lakhs of people as foreigners in their own country. He said, “Such is the price people pay when political posturing and rhetoric is misunderstood as solution for complex issues related to national security without paying attention to strategic and systemic challenges.”