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'Nitish Kumar must clarify his position on CAA/NRC/NPR'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
January 24, 2020 09:04 IST
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'You cannot support CAA and simultaneously say there will be no NRC in Bihar.'
'If Akali Dal has a clear-cut point of view on this issue, I want the same from the JD-U.'

IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at an event in Patna, January 20, 2020. Photograph: PTI Photo
 

Senior Janata Dal-United leader and retired diplomat Ambassador Pavan Varma raised eyebrows on Tuesday, January 20, when in a letter he questioned Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U President Nitish Kumar on the party's stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Population Register and National Register of Citizens.

Ambassador Varma's letter to Nitish Kumar came soon after the JD-U announced its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party for the Delhi elections, for which it has been allotted two seats.

In his letter, Ambassador Varma said there was no room for double standards. In an interview to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Ambassador Varma says he is still waiting for the CM's reply.

"The party must clarify its ideological stand before taking an ad hoc measure of extending its alliance further with the BJP, merely because there is an opportunity of contesting two seats in Delhi," says Ambassador Varma.

Have you fallen out with Nitish Kumar? Are you in or out of the JD-U?

I have my point of view on specific issues. I took them up within the party forum.

On the Citizenship Bill (now Citizenship Amendment Act), I spoke to Nitish Kumar and advised against supporting it (in Parliament).

My views were not taken into cognisance and the party supported the bill in the Lok Sabha.

Subsequently, in a public tweet, I requested Nitish Kumar not to support this bill in the Rajya Sabha. That was also not adhered too.

But subsequently Nitish Kumar did say there will be no NRC in Bihar.

Later, he added there can be a further discussion on the CAA and NPR, without clarifying his position.

However, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi (of the BJP) unilaterally announced the dates for the NPR in Bihar.

In the light of all this, when we (the JD-U) extended our alliance with the BJP for the first time in recent years beyond Bihar to Delhi, I sought ideological clarity on our stand vis-a-vis these issues and directions in accordance with which we are aligned with the BJP.

I have written a public letter on this basis to Mr Nitish Kumar. I will wait for his response and then decide what my future course of action will be.

What are the differences between you and Nitish Kumar?

Right now, it is issue-based endeavour on my part. I have not made personal allegations against Nitish Kumar.

I have not said I am not a member of the JD-U. As an office-bearer and functionary of the JD-U, I have raised these issues with the national president of the party, which I believe are important because this party has always claimed to be an ideology-based party.

It draws inspiration from leaders like Mahatama Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia, who had a chiselled ideological point of view.

Therefore, I have sought from the party ideological clarity before it proceeds further and expands its alliance with the BJP beyond Bihar.

What exactly is Nitish Kumar up to? Some say he is running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

He has to issue a detailed statement, clarifying the party's stand on the entire CAA/NPR/NRC issue.

You cannot support the CAA and simultaneously say there will be no NRC in Bihar because (Union Home Minister) Amit (Anilchandra) Shah on nine occasions -- including on the floor of Parliament -- has hyphenated the CAA with the NRC.

If that is the case, what is the position of the JD-U?

The oldest ally of the BJP -- the Akali Dal -- has also taken an ideological point of view, saying it cannot enter into an alliance with the BJP due to differences on the CAA.

If the Akali Dal has a clear-cut ideological point of view on this issue, I want the same from the JD-U.

But Nitish Kumar is the only BJP ally who has said his government will not implement the NRC and the BJP is okay with it. Home Minister Shah even announced that Nitish will be the face of the alliance in the Bihar election.

That is a very fine gesture on the part of Amit Shah when the alliance was limited to Bihar.

Now when you extend the alliance beyond Bihar, then the party has to be absolutely clear on what aspects does it agree or disagree with its principal alliance partner. It is not clear.

What makes Nitish Kumar so valuable to the BJP?

It is a long-standing alliance. The BJP, in my view, especially after what happened in Maharashtra and now what has happened with the Akali Dal on CAA, would like to fight elections without losing another ally.

But it is incumbent upon the JD-U to spell out its ideological line clearly, otherwise you are taking ad hoc decisions of a political nature depending on the opportunity for short-term purposes without a larger ideological frame-work.

Does ideology matter in today's politics, as everyone seems to be out there only to grab power?

Nitish Kumar should reply to my letter and say if he so wishes that ideology does not matter and we are in alliance with the BJP to win elections.

The protests against the CAA are mostly by Muslims. Prime Minster Narendra Damodardas Modi said that the protesters can be identified by their clothes.

In my view it is not true. There are people of all religions joining the protests.

In some areas there must be preponderance of Muslims, but even in Shaheen Bagh, a langar is being run by the Sikhs.

Let us be clear, the anti-CAA protest is an Indian protest and not a Muslim protest.

Muslims are reading the Preamble of the Constitution and singing the national anthem during the protests. They are not carrying the Quran, but a copy of the Constitution.

You may agree or disagree with the BJP, but at least they have an ideological clarity as to what they wish to pursue -- like the CAA and NRC.

I want the same ideological clarity within the JD-U. I want to know to what extent we agree with the BJP and where do we disagree with them.

Is there a possibility of the JD-U breaking away from the BJP ahead of the 2024 election and crossing over to the other side?

I am not an astrologer, but I know that from 2013 onwards -- when Nitish broke up with the BJP -- up to 2017 -- when he returned -- he was the most trenchant critic of the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).

He even called for an RSS-mukt Bharat. He said 'main mitti mein mil jaoonga, par inkey saath kabhi nahi jaaonga (I will be ruined, but won't ever go with them again)'.

Now he is with them, but he has differences on many issues like Article 370 and the nature of the law against instant triple talaq and NRC.

So the party must clarify its ideological stand before taking an ad hoc measure of extending its alliance further with the BJP, merely because there is an opportunity of contesting two seats in Delhi.

Two seats are too few. Isn't it humiliating?

(Laughs) The Akali Dal has said no to an alliance with the BJP (for the Delhi elections).

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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