Bowing to mounting pressure, particularly from its ally All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has joined the public protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The fog around the ruling party’s stand cleared when its representatives participated in a massive public meeting at Telangana’s Nizamabad town on Friday (December 27), organised by the Muslim United Front, a conglomeration of Muslim social and political organisations. The left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also attended the meeting.
Nizamabad, Telangana has a message for anyone who believes that Indians need to prove their citizenship in their own home pic.twitter.com/szk1RX9zaw
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) December 27, 2019
Ahead of the proposed meet, a delegation of prominent Muslim leaders, led by the AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, met Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and urged him to take a firm stand on the raging issues of CAA and NRC in tune with the public mood.
Though the TRS had opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in both houses of Parliament, it had refrained from either joining the public protests or lending support to them. 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.
Earlier this month, the TRS government also imposed restrictions on the anti-CAA protests that rocked Hyderabad for several days.
The continued support of AIMIM and the Muslim community, which constitutes nearly 13 percent of the state’s total population, is crucial for TRS, 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 including the recent strike by the employees of the state road transport corporation.
The two parties are set to continue their electoral understanding in the upcoming municipal polls in the state.
With Congress struggling to stay relevant after suffering steady desertions from its ranks, the saffron party has emerged as the principal adversary for the TRS.
While sharpening its attack on the TRS government, the BJP has been harping on the twin issues of “family rule and minority appeasement”.
MLAs of the ruling party Mohammad Shakeel Amer and J Surender, Nizamabad Zilla Parishad chief D Vittal Rao and the party’s district unit president E Ganga Reddy participated in the protest meeting, signalling a major shift in the region’s stand on the issue.
Sources from the TRS said that the Chief Minister is likely to bring together all the parties opposed to CAA-NRC-NPR on a common platform to chalk out a joint strategy to mount pressure on the Centre to review its policy.
Owaisi, a four-time MP who has been the most vociferous among the opposition leaders in opposing the new citizenship law, used the occasion to thank KCR for his ‘commitment’ to oppose the CAA and NPR.
“The Chief Minister has assured me that he will not allow the NPR exercise in the state as long as he was alive,” Owaisi claimed.
“The NPR and NRC are the two sides of the same coin,” the Hyderabad MP said. His claim came a day after the Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy clarified that there was no link between the two.
The AIMIM leader accused the BJP leaders of spreading ‘false propaganda’ on television channels on the matter.
Referring to some BJP leaders’ reported comments that NPR exercise was conducted in 2010 as well by the then UPA government, he claimed that the difference between NPR of 2010 and 2020 was that the questions would now be asked about the birthplace and date of birth of parents as well.
“The ongoing movement across the country is not about Muslims or Hindus but about protecting the Constitution,” he said. “The CAA 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,” Owaisi said.
TRS working president KT Rama Rao said that there was no confusion in his party’s stand opposing the new citizenship law because it “clearly discriminates against Muslims.”
“We said it in so many words while voting against the Bill in the Parliament,” Chief Minister’s son KTR, said.
However, on the issue of stopping the exercise of NPR and NRC in the state, the TRS government would take a final stand after due deliberations in the cabinet, he said.
The TRS leader pointed out that his party had earlier supported certain bills in the Parliament, including the one on abrogation of Article 370, keeping in view the interests of the country.
“The details of NPR are not yet available and there are some doubts over the centre’s announcement. When the details come, we will take an appropriate stand,” the TRS Parliamentary Party leader K Kesava Rao said.tests