Kerala, Punjab and Rajasthan are the other three states to pass a resolution opposing the contentious legislation, reports Archis Mohan
The West Bengal Assembly on Monday became the fourth state to pass a resolution against the amended Citizenship Act. Legislative Assemblies of the Left Democratic Front-ruled Kerala, and Congress-ruled Punjab and Rajasthan have already passed similar resolutions this month.
The resolution in the Bengal Assembly, brought by Trinmaool Congress-led state government, demanded the contentious citizenship law be repealed and the National Population Register and National Register of Citizens be withdrawn.
Speaking on the resolution in the Assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “We want this law to be repealed immediately. We want NPR to be also repealed.” The resolution was supported by opposition Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front.
Crucially, Banerjee reiterated that her government will not allow NPR in her state and dared the Centre to dismiss her government. “Our state government had the guts to skip the NPR meeting (in Delhi); if the BJP wants it can dismiss my government,” she said.
Apart from Bengal, Kerala is the only other state government to instruct its administrations to not conduct NPR. The Centre has already notified NPR, and it is to be conducted along with the Census from April to September.
The current terms of Kerala and Bengal Assemblies expire by May 2021. Trinamool and CPI-M can afford to take an aggressive line on not conducting NPR in the hope that the Centre would think twice before dismissing the two governments, and it would help electorally even if it were to.
The Congress leadership has said all its state governments will pass resolutions against the Citizenship Amendment Act. However, the Congress is unsure of how it would defy the Centre on NPR.
On whether Congress state governments will defy the Centre on NPR, Congress spokespersons and senior leaders, including lawyers such as Kapil Sibal, have argued that all should await the Supreme Court’s judgment on CAA. Their argument is that the controversy over NPR and NRC would become redundant if the Supreme Court were to strike down the “discriminatory” CAA.
Earlier this month, the Congress and 19 other opposition parties issued a resolution, which appealed to “all the chief ministers, who have announced that they will not implement NRC in their state, must consider to suspend the NPR enumeration as this is a prelude to NRC.”
While passing a resolution against the CAA by a state legislature is permissible under Article 131 of the constitution, the states cannot defy the Centre on NPR.
The reason for the Congress' nervousness on the NPR issue, and also that of the YSR Congress Party that rules Andhra Pradesh and Telangana’s ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, is that the state governments that they run are left with significant tenures.
The Congress governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are left with nearly four years. The Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress coalition in Maharashtra is not just left with its entire tenure but it is also crucial since Maharashtra is the richest state in the country. Similarly, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal coalition government is only recently elected.
The Congress is hopeful that local communities would come in the forefront to mount the fight on NPR by not showing documents, or refusing to give details on the more problematic of the NPR questions. The Congress is also hopeful that gradually the protests against NPR would extend to those against inflation, joblessness and economic slowdown.
In its meeting last week, the CPI-M’s central committee suggested a way out. It “called upon the people not to answer any questions concerning the NPR when the enumerators come to their houses.”
“These enumerators will have two sets of questions -- one for the Census and one for the NPR. While the questions related to the Census may be answered, the questions related to the NPR must not be,” it said in a statement.
The CPI-M also decided that its cadres will conduct a house to house campaign explaining the linkage between the NPR and the NRC and calling upon the people not to answer the NPR questions.
In the Bengal Assembly on Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party opposed the resolution. It thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the CAA to help refugees get their citizenship of the country.
The Bengal assembly had earlier passed a resolution against NRC in September 2019. Banerjee urged the opposition CPI-M and the Congress to put aside narrow political differences and fight together against the "fascist BJP government" at the Centre.