Patna: Tejashwi Yadav, leader of opposition in Bihar on Tuesday not only attacked ruling Janata Dal (United), headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, for supporting Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, (CAB),he also announced that his party will oppose CAB as well as the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in the state and across the country. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader has hinted that NRC will be one of the key issues in 2020 Bihar Assembly polls.
On Monday, JD-U national vice-president Prashant Kishor had publicly expressed his disappointment over his party’s decision to support CAB in Lok Sabha. He said that the legislation discriminates against people on the basis of religion—much to the embarrassment of Nitish Kumar.
Now, RJD, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), and Congress have declared that they will oppose the NRC in Bihar.
Kishor, who is considered to be close to the CM, in his tweet on Monday night, said, “Disappointed to see JDU supporting CAB that discriminates right of citizenship on the basis of religion. It’s incongruous with the party’s constitution that carries the word secular thrice on the very first page and the leadership that is supposedly guided by Gandhian ideals”.
This is not the first time that Kishor has opposed the NRC. In September, he had termed the final NRC in Assam “a botched up exercise”. “A botched up NRC leaves lakhs of people as foreigners in their own country! Such is the price people pay when political posturing and rhetoric is misunderstood as solution for complex issues related to national security, without paying adequate attention to strategic and systematic challenges,” he had said in a tweet.
Interestingly, JD-U—Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally—until recently, has had strong reservations regarding the NRC issue. CM Nitish Kumar said last week: “As of now, there is no stand. We are consulting the JD-U units in different states and will take a stand thereafter.” It appears from this statement that JD-U was indeed in a dilemma over NRC.
In this context, Yadav said that Nitish Kumar and his party had opposed the NRC earlier and now they support it. “He [Kumar] has once again proved that he is a palturam (turncoat),” he said.
Tejashwi added that the BJP-led central government’s policy against the minorities is dangerous and the Centre is deliberately targeting them. “NRC is anti-pluralistic and is against the age old Ganga-Jamuna culture. The CAB and NRC are not good for the integrity and unity of the country,” he said.
A senior RJD leader told NewsClick that RJD is likely to join hands with the Left parties to protest against the NRC across the country.
After JD-U supported the CAB, its ally BJP is toying with the idea of playing this card in Seemanchal, a Muslim-dominated backward region of Bihar, ahead of 2020 Assembly polls, according to sources.
The BJP’s design, say political observers, is to consolidate and polarise Hindu voters in the state. For the saffron party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Seemanchal is a crucial area, as it has the highest concentration of the Muslim population and BJP has, so far, failed to make inroads in the region. In the Seemanchal region, Muslims account for 70% of the population in Kishanganj, 38% in Purnea, 43% in Katihar and over 42% in Araria. However, Muslims only form 16.5% of Bihar's 105 million population, as per the 2011 Census.
There are 23 Assembly seats in Seemanchal and four Lok Sabha seats. Despite its demography, only 10 Muslims were elected as MLAs in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls when Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and JD-U contested elections together. Only one Muslim was elected in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Kishanganj, the only seat won by the opposition Grand Alliance.
BJP leaders have already started a campaign by linking backwardness, poverty and high migration to illegal infiltrators—mainly Bangladeshi Muslims. “Illegal infiltrators are a curse for the locals. They have devoured employment and jobs of thousands of people. They should be identified and forcibly driven out,” BJP MLA from Purnea, Vijay Khemka, said recently.
Bihar’s Seemanchal shares its boundary with West Bengal and Nepal. It is also close to Assam.
The flood prone Kishanganj has some of the worst development statistics not only in Bihar, but also 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 female 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 have observed that the poor socio-economic condition was responsible for large-scale migration from Kishanganj and other Seemanchal districts.