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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

‘How many non-BJP CMs were consulted’: JD(U) on Centre’s pan-India NRC pitch

JD (U) national vice president and ace electoral strategist Prashant Kishor tweeted that 15- plus states with more than 55% of India’s population have non-BJP chief ministers.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2019 22:54 IST
Anirban Guha Roy
Anirban Guha Roy
Hindustan Times, Patna
JD (U) national vice president and ace electoral strategist Prashant Kishor with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.
JD (U) national vice president and ace electoral strategist Prashant Kishor with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. (File photo: PTI)
         

A day after union home minister Amit Shah announced that the National Register of Citizens would be implemented across the country, Janata Dal (United), its alliance partner in Bihar, raised questions on its applicability.

JD (U) national vice president and ace electoral strategist Prashant Kishor tweeted that 15- plus states with more than 55% of India’s population have non-BJP chief ministers. “Wonder how many of them have been consulted and are on-board for NRC in their respective states!!” Kishor’s tweet follows a more or less similar reaction from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who minced no words while rejecting NRC in her state.

With the BJP-JD (U) alliance already in troubled waters following the latter’s decision to contest all the seats in Jharkhand alone, Kishor’s tweet indicates how the senior ally in NDA, the JD (U), is toeing a separate line on various contentious issues to maintain its distinct identity and to retain its vote base, especially among Muslims, ahead of the 2020 assembly polls.

Political observers feel that JD (U) has to tread cautiously on the NRC issue if it has to retain its Muslim vote bank as NRC is seen with fear by the minorities who constitute around 17 percent in Bihar. They have a sizeable vote base in several assembly constituencies in Seemanchal, North and Central Bihar.

In the 2015 assembly polls, the JD (U) had won 70 seats in alliance with RJD and Congress. It did fairly well in several Muslim dominated areas. However, in the recently held by-polls, the party suffered a big setback losing three out of the four sitting seats, including Simri Bakhtiyarpur where the Muslims often swing the results. Out of the four seats it had contested in the by-polls, the party could win only the Nathnagar seat in Bhagalpur.

Political observers feel that the dwindling vote share has compelled Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) to strongly raise issues on which the party had been taking a non-committal stand like the NRC and special state status for Bihar. These two issues are seen as tools to exert pressure on the BJP and address its constituents.

The JD (U) had first raised the special status demand in 2006 declaring it as the only way to pull Bihar out from the morass of underdevelopment and socio-economic backwardness. Their demand, however, remained unaddressed by the successive governments at the Centre.

Amid the ongoing elections in neighbouring state Jharkhand, JD (U) has once again brought up the special status issue as its MP Kaushalendra Kumar raised the demand afresh in the Lok Sabha by highlighting the state’s dismal per capita income compared to the national average and urged the Centre to take a firm stand.

“These are bargaining issues for the JD (U),” said eminent social scientist and former director of the AN Sinha Institute for Social Sciences, Patna. He said, “Since the JD (U) is an ally of BJP and it has been taking a stand on secular issues differently, it is a win-win situation for both. Their different stands on a few issues will help the alliance to gain both the secular and their traditional votes.”

Meanwhile, Kishor’s tweet has triggered a fresh political debate on the NRC in the state. Union minister and Begusarai MP Giriraj Singh in a veiled attack on those opposing the NRC said that it will only help the illegal immigrants in the country, which is facing a population explosion. “NRC is paramount for the security and development of the country. All those living illegally in the country should be flushed out. We are all in favour of the Centre’s plan to implement it across the country,” Singh added.

Speaking to reporters, Congress spokesperson Premchand Mishra said that there should be a consensus on implementation of the NRC.