Protests had erupted in BJP-ruled Assam soon after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2019. They intensified after the bill was passed in Parliament and became a law after getting President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent subsequently.
Several people lost their lives in the agitation in Assam against CAA, which later spread to other parts of the country, including Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
The CAA aims at granting Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians – who had come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to India till December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution in these countries.
The Assamese people, who were already against the infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims, strongly opposed the bill.
The CAA agitation took place alongside the fiasco over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise which allegedly failed to identify the original Indians and differentiate them with the infiltrators.
The BJP faced the daunting task of striking a fine balance between NRC and CAA and the situation arising out of the twin problems.
While announcing to correct NRC on the one hand, the BJP played down CAA on the other hand. It sought to win over the trust of the people by stating that their identity would not be diluted. They have been saying that CAA was not an issue for Assam and not a single infiltrator would be allowed to enter the state.
The BJP sought to play smart politics over CAA in neighbouring West Bengal which also goes to polls alongside Assam.
While keeping silent in Assam over CAA, the BJP leaders have been announcing its implementation in West Bengal at the top of their voices, if the party wrests power from Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Implementation of CAA finds prominent mention in the BJP’s manifesto for West Bengal released on March 21. In fact, while launching the manifesto, Union home minister Amit Shah said the party would implement CAA in the “first cabinet meeting itself”.
On the other side, CAA does not find mention in the BJP’s manifesto released by Nadda in Guwahati.
However, Nadda, when asked about the Congress’ promise to repeal CAA if voted back to power, said: “CAA is a central legislation. It was passed by Parliament. It will be implemented in letter and spirit. When a party (Congress) is handed over to children, this is what happens. A state legislation cannot change central legislation. Either it’s ignorance or an attempt to cheat.”
Nadda’s statement goes against the BJP’s efforts to play down the contentious law by avoiding any references to it ahead of the polls.
The Congress sought to take advantage of Nadda’s statement on CAA. Lok Sabha Congress MP from Kaliabor in Assam Gaurav Gogoi immediately cornered the BJP.
In a tweet, the Congress’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha said, “As the Congress re-affirms its guarantee of a law to nullify CAA in Assam, the BJP says it will impose CAA on the state very soon. Now it is for the people of Assam to decide what they want. #Congressor5Guarantee”
As the Congress re-affirms its guarantee of a law to nullify CAA in Assam, the BJP says it will impose CAA on the s… https://t.co/xDOM3x56H2
— Gaurav Gogoi (@GauravGogoiAsm) 1616493430000
On NRC, the BJP’s manifesto says: “We will initiate the process of the correction and reconciliation of entries under the Supreme Court mandated National Register of Citizens in a structured manner to protect genuine Indian citizens and exclude all illegal immigrants.”
It further states that the BJP “will work on a corrected NRC for Assam’s protection. We will protect genuine Indian citizens and detect infiltrators to ensure the Ahom civilisation stays safe. To protect Assam’s political rights, a delimitation process will be sped up”.
The Congress is likely to raise Nadda’s statement on CAA in the days to come while the BJP would have to do some fire-fighting to control the damage.