The mounting public pressure has prompted the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to take a more strident stand against the controversial National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Both the states are now set to pass assembly resolutions to this effect next week.
While the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government will introduce a resolution during the ongoing budget session opposing CAA-NPR-NRC, the YSR Congress government in the neighbouring state is silent on the CAA while opposing the NPR in the present form and also NRC.
The key difference is that while TRS is opposed to the new citizenship law on the ground that it amounts to religious discrimination and negation of the fundamental principles of secularism and equality, the YSRCP has supported the move and voted in favour of the legislation in both the houses of the Parliament.
However, both the parties are on the same page as far as NPR and NRC are concerned.
Change of heart
The two ruling parties have shed their initial ambivalence on NPR-NRC issue and come out openly denouncing the NDA government’s move, largely due to growing public pressure. There has been a spate of public protests in both the states against CAA and NRC.
Political calculations have also played a part.
For TRS, the continued support of its ally All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Muslim community, which constitutes nearly 13 per cent of Telangana’s population, is crucial, particularly at a time when the BJP is upping its game to consolidate its hold in the state.
Besides, the AIMIM has steadfastly supported the ruling party on key issues and stood by the government in difficult situations.
In Andhra Pradesh, the minorities form a strong support base for Jagan. After sailing with the Centre on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Chief Minister has been under pressure from a section of party leaders to oppose the NRC in view of the widespread public apprehensions, particularly among minorities, over the exercise.
On the other hand, the state deputy chief minister Amzath Basha has been saying on record that his party would not support any move that was “detrimental” to the interests of the Muslim community.
Even while remaining silent on the CAA, Jagan initially confined his opposition to the NRC and assured the people that it would not be allowed in the state. Later, in tune with the public mood, he made it clear that the NPR would not be taken up in its present form and urged the Centre to revert to the 2010 format.
On its part, the TRS was initially hesitant to join the anti-CAA protests. In fact, the regional party chose to send mixed signals, saying that no state government can refuse to implement the new citizenship law as it was a central subject. The TRS government had also imposed restrictions on the anti-CAA protests that rocked Hyderabad for several days.
Subsequently, it changed the strategy and joined the public protests while Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao raised the pitch against the CAA and even spoke about bringing together the heads of regional parties and chief ministers of states opposed to the NDA’s divisive moves.
Resolution next week
KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, is set to introduce a resolution in the Assembly next week, opposing the CAA-NPR-NRC and urging the Centre to withdraw the amendments to citizenship act and also scrap the idea of nationwide NRC.
Barring the BJP, the resolution is expected to get support from the other opposition parties including Congress.
“We are keen to have a debate in the assembly over these crucial issues and get the resolution passed,” the State Legislative Affairs Minister V Prashanth Reddy said.
With this, Telangana State will be joining the league of non-BJP State governments that are opposed to CAA and disinclined to implement NPR in its present format.
West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab, and Rajasthan have already passed resolutions against the amended citizenship act. Recently, Bihar became the first NDA-ruled state to pass a resolution against the implementation of the NRC in the state.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh cabinet has passed a resolution, requesting the Centre to modify the questionnaire for the NPR.
“As many as 30 questions were used while taking up the Census in 2010. We want a similar pattern to be followed now. We will keep the process in abeyance till the Centre provides clarity on this,” the state Information Minister P Venkataramaiah said.
The additional questions in the NPA form, regarding the date and place of parents’ birth, have created fear and apprehensions in the minds of people.
The NPR, a register of residents in the country containing demographic and biometric details, forms the legal framework for NRC which is being widely condemned as discriminatory and divisive.
Experts point out that it would be extremely difficult to go ahead with the work related to NPR and NRC without the co-operation of the state governments.