NRC outcome, a molehill for BJP that expected mountain

NRC outcome, a molehill for BJP that expected mountain

The BJP’s ally, the Asom Gana Parishad, is unhappy about the outcome, calling the number of exclusions ‘ridiculously small’.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which had for decades pushed for Detection, Deletion and Deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, now has to grapple with a dilemma: merely 19 lakh — or less than 6% of the population — have been found to be non-citizens of Assam, against the hype built up about droves of outsiders coming in and stealing jobs.

The ruling party adopted a formal resolution regarding illegal immigration as far back as 1996. With the passage of time, its stand on the issue has only become more strident, and Home Minister Amit Shah has famously referred to illegal migrants from Bangladesh — read Muslims — as termites.

Now it has to justify these numbers, even as it's northeast strategist Himanta Biswa Sharma called for ‘new measures’ to address this issue, a likely reference to moves to grant citizenship to refugee Hindus and non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh.

The BJP’s ally, the Asom Gana Parishad, is unhappy about the outcome, calling the number of exclusions ‘ridiculously small’.

But, more importantly, the NRC’s outcome causes a bit of a problem for the BJP in Bengal, a state where it is gearing up for elections in 2021 in which it fancies its chances of unseating Mamata Banerjee. A large number of Bengali Hindus, who voted for the BJP en bloc in Assam, have not found their names in the NRC.

Mamata duly took potshots at the BJP when 40 lakh people were excluded from the draft NRC last year, terming the exercise as a conspiracy to remove all Bengalis and Biharis from Assam.

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a hot political issue both in Assam and Bengal and as the BJP succeeded in getting the NRC through in Assam, it has also been pushing for a similar outcome in Bengal.

While BJP general secretary Ram Madhav gave compliments to BJP government for the “finally published” NRC, Biswa Sarma said, “The NRC will not solve our foreigner problem and the Centre and Assam government are mulling new measures to address the issue.” He also rued the fact that “names of many Indian citizens who migrated from Bangladesh as refugees prior to 1971 have not been included in the NRC because authorities refused to accept refugee certificates.”

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said the “myth of the illegal migrant is dispelled” with the NRC’s final list and asked will BJP chief and Home Minister Amit Shah “now explain how he came to know of 40 lakh infiltrators.”

All this, however, has not stopped the BJP pushing for an NRC in other states, such as Delhi and Telangana.