West Bengal: During an administrative meeting for the districts of Malda and Murshidabad in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her government will not implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and will not allow the Centre to do so. Banerjee stated that the Centre had recently sent a letter regarding the NRC, which they raise before every election, and her government will not enforce it. Banerjee warned citizens to enroll their names in the voter’s list and update their Aadhaar cards as they have the right to cast their votes as citizens and failing to do so may result in their names being deleted. Banerjee’s statement is seen as a countermeasure against the BJP’s electoral promise in poll-bound Karnataka, where the BJP released its election manifesto, stating that it will implement the uniform civil code (UCC) and NRC if it retains power.
In West Bengal, the issues of NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been inseparable due to the composition of the population. The Muslim population makes up around 30% of the population and can play a decisive role in as many as 120 out of 294 assembly seats. The CAA promises fast-tracked citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh before 2015, which has been demanded by Dalits who entered Bengal as refugees from Bangladesh. Banerjee claims that the CAA is unconstitutional as it links citizenship to faith in a secular country.
The Bengal BJP had so far maintained silence on the implementation of NRC in the state, but it is one of the biggest political standpoints of the BJP. The issue was raised by TMC before all recent polls. However, while reacting to Banerjee’s statement, Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson said that the NRC is connected to India’s internal security and will be executed under any circumstance. The focus on Muslims in PM Narendra Modi’s address at the BJP national executive meet in January has forced the party’s Bengal unit to reach out to the minority vote bank.
Political observers suggest that the NRC will again create a rift in society before the coming polls, and it is too early to say which party will benefit from it.