Flip-flop, doublespeak and ambiguity mark the responses of political parties in the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over the raging issues of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) that have triggered nationwide outrage.
After supporting the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and voting in its favour in the Parliament, the ruling YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh now says it would not allow the NRC exercise in the state at any cost.
“Let me make it very clear. We will not support the NRC and will not allow it in our state,” the YSRCP president and Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy said, while addressing a public meeting in Kadapa on Monday (December 23).
On the other hand, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the neighbouring Telangana, which had opposed the legislation in both Houses of Parliament, now says that its “hands are tied” as far as its implementation in the state is concerned.
The issue of citizenship falls in the domain of the Centre and the states have no role to play in it, argues senior TRS leader B Vinod Kumar.
“No doubt, we are strongly opposed to the CAA and NRC. But, how can we say we will not allow it in our state? This is the Centre’s subject. There is nothing that the States can do about it,” said Kumar who is the vice-chairman of the state planning board.
Another TRS leader and Rajya Sabha member K Kesava Rao echoed similar views and said that granting citizenship was a central issue.
“We are opposed to the CAA. We have said it is against the very idea of India. It is against all our dreams and aspirations about India as it violates several articles of the Constitution. However, it is the law now, unless the Supreme Court strikes it down,” Rao said.
By voting against the legislation in the Parliament, the TRS has sent a clear political message that it doesn’t want to hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community which constitutes 13% of the state’s population. Besides, it does not want to antagonise its ally All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which has steadfastly supported the ruling party on key issues and stood by the government in difficult situations including during the recent strike by the employees of the state road transport corporation.
After supporting the Centre on several key issues in the past, including the abrogation of Article 370 and amendment to RTI Act, the TRS had, for the first time, issued a whip to its MPs to vote against the CAB in the Lok Sabha.
However, as a party in power, the TRS now wants to take a “nuanced stand” on the issue of implementation of the CAA and NRC. “We are only stating the position of law as it stands. We cannot talk like Mamata Banerjee. No state has the powers to say no to a central law,” a TRS leader said.
However, the president of Telangana Jana Samithi Prof M Kodandaram accused the ruling party of indulging in doublespeak over the issue.
“Merely voting against the Bill in the Parliament is not enough. The state government must give confidence to the people that no register will be made that excludes people on religious grounds. Such an assurance is expected from the government,” he said.
The growing public pressure appears to have prompted Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister to publicly oppose the NRC. However, he has not changed his stand on the CAA.
Last week, deputy chief minister Amzath Basha had said that his party would not support any move that was “detrimental” to the interests of the Muslim community.
“I urge the people to exercise restraint. I spoke to the chief minister and I can assure you that whether it is NRC or any other legislation that will hurt the Muslim community, the YSRCP will oppose it,” he had said.
Jagan’s statement on Monday came after his party came under attack for supporting the Centre on the CAB earlier this month. The party had voted in favour of the Bill in both the Houses of Parliament.
The opposition Telugu Desam Party, headed by N Chandrababu Naidu, had also supported the legislation. Of late, the regional party has been warming up to the BJP.
Meanwhile, the AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has appealed to Jagan to withdraw his support to the CAA. “I request the Chief Minister to withdraw his support for the divisive legislation. I know you need to run a government but this is about India. Only when the country has a strong foundation can anyone run a strong government,” Owaisi said.
“This legislation privileges foreigners over Indians solely because they are non-Muslim. It makes religion as the basis for granting Indian citizenship and specifically excludes Muslims and it must be read through the prism of NRC,” the four-time MP said.