Amid a political storm over the publication of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is rooting for a similar exercise in Bengal and vowing to drive out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants once the party is voted to power in the state. However, its political opponents see no merit in the saffron outfit’s claims.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front have dismissed the BJP’s stand as a mere ploy to communally polarise the people ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Several BJP leaders, including state party president Dilip Ghosh, national secretary Rahul Sinha and state observer Kailash Vijayvargiya have fiercely backed the Assam NRC and repeatedly stressed that it was required in Bengal to drive out all the “illegal settlers” from Bangladesh.
During his high-voltage rally in Kolkata last month, BJP president Amit Shah launched a scathing attack on Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool government, accusing it of allowing in illegal infiltrators to use them as vote banks and termed it a threat to national security.
“We’ll implement NRC in Bengal once we come to power. All those who have entered illegally will be pushed back. The current government in Bengal is too concerned about the rights of infiltrators, but what about the rights and safety of your own people? That’s our first priority,” Ghosh maintained.
Left Front legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty termed the BJP “anti-poor and anti-Bengali”.
“There is no chance of BJP coming to power here, let alone publishing the NRC list. It is impossible. The BJP has often tried to disturb the people of Bengal by creating communal tension. They may attempt to do so again, but the people of Bengal will not accept it,” Chakraborty, a senior CPI-M leader, told IANS.
Trinamool leader and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim also accused the BJP of dividing communities in the name of the NRC in Assam and warned that given a chance, the saffron outfit would do the same in Bengal.
“We don’t want the national security of our country to be compromised at any cost. But the way bona fide Indians are being harassed in the name of the NRC in Assam, the way BJP is trying to create a divide between the Hindus-Muslims and Bengali-Assamese there, is condemnable. We fear they would take up the same divide and rule policy here in the name of NRC,” Hakim told IANS.
“If there are any anti-national elements here, the central agencies are competent enough to pick them up and deport them. We don’t need to push so many people into uncertainty by bringing the NRC,” he said.
Leader of Opposition and Congress veteran Abdul Mannan exuded confidence that the BJP will not succeed in its plans to divide the people of Bengal. According to him, the draft NRC in Assam clearly showed that the exercise was actually aimed at ousting a certain community from the country.
“In the name of the NRC, they are undertaking a political activity in Assam. They are trying to turn 40 lakh people into refugees. Even if all those people are accused of being non-Indians they have no responsibility to prove their credentials. It is the government’s job. It is evident what they are trying to achieve in the name of the NRC,” he added.
According to political analyst Udayan Bandyopadhyay, the state BJP’s “tall claims” of publishing the much-debated citizen’s list in Bengal on the lines of Assam is actually aimed at gaining political mileage among Hindu voters ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“They are repeatedly claiming they will deport the doubtful voters to Bangladesh because it would create an impression that most of the infiltrators here are Bengali Muslims. If they can establish this perception, they’d be able to create communal polarisation in Bengal,” Bandyopadhyay told IANS.
Pointing out that the demand to publish an NRC from Bengal will have more wind in its sail if the BJP returns to power at the Centre after 2019, the analyst claimed it would be “almost impossible” to run such an exercise here as there is no background like the historic Assam accord, which got the ball rolling there.
He also claimed that the Centre won’t be able to deport the 40 lakh people, whose names have been left out of the Assam NRC, as governments of other countries would never accept them.
“Even if they are proved as infiltrators, it is impossible to deport them or isolate them to a certain area. At most, the voting rights of these people will be revoked,” Bandyopadhyay added.
(Milinda Ghosh Roy can be contacted at [email protected])