After his Delhi visit, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray seems to have softened his stand on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) although in the past, he had opposed it even as he supported the amended Citizenship Act.
Thackeray was in the national capital on Friday to visit PM Modi, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and BJP patriarch L K Advani. This was his first visit to the national capital after assuming the role of the CM and second visit to the PM after breaking away from its longstanding alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
After meeting Modi along with son Aaditya, Thackeray addressed a press conference outside the PM residence. He said, “The NPR is proposed to take place along with the census. It happened in 2010 too. Census happens every 10 years in our country. If there are new columns proposed in the NPR, they will be scrutinised by our government and if it seems problematic, we won’t take it ahead.”
Earlier, Thackeray had implied that there is no difference between NPR and Census and had called it a normal, regular exercise. In a press conference held a few days ago, he had said that he doesn’t see any difference between census and NPR. “If NRC is implemented, then it will affect not only Hindus or Muslims but also adivasis. Centre has not discussed NRC as of now. NPR is a census, and I don’t think anyone will be affected as it happens every 10 years,” Uddhav had said during his Konkan tour this week itself.
This had come as a blow to Shiv Sena’s alliance partner Congress, as its highest body had passed a resolution establishing its staunch opposition to NPR.
In this context, Budget session in Maharashtra—which starts on February 24—is a crucial session for the survival of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress) government in state. Because a number of ideological differences between the parties have started to surface. As the NCP hold the finance portfolio, budgetary allocations to the various department may cause a rift in the government.
In Maharashtra's 288-member Assembly, MVA government has 170 seats—64 with Shiv Sena, 54 with NCP, and 44 with Congress. Any of the three principal partners, Sena, NCP and Congress could upset the equation of the government.
Sources have said that the BJP would try to bring two resolutions in the state Assembly. One will be about VD Savarkar and another about NPR. Maharashtra government has already issued a notification about NPR on the guidelines of Centre; it is scheduled to start from May 1. So, BJP was planning to explore the differences on both the issues in this session.
BJP, on the other hand, is also welcoming the new position of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Chief Raj Thackeray, who has now resorted to an aggressive Hindutva strategy.
Uddhav Thackeray is also trying to prove that he has not let go of the Hindutva issue. “I have not changed my religion. I am Hindu and Hindutva is my identity. BJP doesn’t have a copyright on it. Hindutva teaches us to speak the truth. BJP keeps lying about everything. It is not Hindutva,” said in an interview to Samana, Sena's mouthpiece.
But now, his new position will allow him to scrutinise the NPR questionnaire—which makes things more difficult for the BJP. He also made it clear that NRC is against all religions, castes and people across sections and that he won’t allow it in Maharashtra. On CAA, he has said that it won’t disturb anything in Maharashtra, but at the same time, he has questioned the Centre regarding its implementation.