At least a dozen non-BJP-led state governments have made it clear that it will not implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) amid country-wide protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, raising questions about the implementation of the pet BJP project.
These states will also be opening a new battleground with the BJP-led government, as it has now cleared the way for National Population Register (NPR) in 2020, which they claim is a precursor to the NRC.
The ongoing protests against the CAA and NRC are likely to be intensified in the coming days following the Cabinet approval for the NPR exercise next year along with the 2021 Census.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted that there was no discussion on NRC since 2014 and BJP leaders claiming it will be done after consulting states, Opposition leaders are not willing to buy it, saying their words do not match what is on paper. They cited the responses in Parliament answers, President's Address to Parliament as well as previous statements by Modi, Home Minister Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP working president JP Nadda among others.
In an indication of the Opposition's move, the CPI(M) issued a statement urging all Chief Ministers who have announced their opposition to the NRC to stop the NPR exercise in their states.
"At least 12 Chief Ministers have announced that the NRC will not be implemented in their states. The Chief Ministers of Kerala and West Bengal have decided not to proceed on the NPR as well. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) appeals to all the Chief Ministers, who have opposed the NRC, to ensure that the NPR exercise is abandoned in their states," it said.
The government on Tuesday insisted that the NPR has nothing to do with the NRC even as MHA responses in Parliament and its Annual Report made it clear that NPR is the "first step" towards NRC.
CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala and Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government have already issued government orders stopping the process for NPR while announcing that it will not implement the CAA and NRC in their states.
Opposition governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Punjab have already announced that it will not allow CAA-NRC in their states. JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also announced no NRC in his state even as he partners with BJP. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy, whose YSR Congress is perceived to be soft on the BJP-led Centre has also announced that it will not implement in his state.
Jharkhand's incoming Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are also opposed to the exercise.