Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remark that his government never discussed a nationwide National Register of Citizens drew sharp reactions from the opposition parties on Monday with the Congress alleging the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to fool the country and the Left accusing him of lying.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar also expressed surprise at Modi's comment, and said President Ram Nath Kovind had even talked about the government's plan to implement the NRC across the country in his joint address to Parliament.
As the opposition countered the claims by Modi on a nationwide NCR, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan said it will be implemented but only after “detailed discussions”.
Seeking to allay apprehensions, especially among Muslims on the NRC, the prime minister told a rally in Delhi on Sunday that his government has never discussed it since coming to power for the first time in 2014.
The NRC has been discussed neither in Parliament nor in the Cabinet, he said.
"Since my government first came to power in 2014, I want to tell 130 crore countrymen, there has never been a discussion on this NRC," he said, noting that it was done only in Assam due to a Supreme Court order.
The Congress noted that the BJP in its Jharkhand assembly election manifesto claimed it will implement the NRC and Union home minister Amit Shah has said it will be implemented across the country, but the prime minister is now claiming just the opposite,
"Welcome to the conversation PM Modi, the country has been waiting for you. It's sad that the first time you've addressed the growing unrest in our nation you do so with hate & lies, but alas, what more can we expect from the Divider in Chief," the opposition party said on Twitter.
"Saheb speaks in Delhi that there was no discussion on NRC, but in the Jharkhand election manifesto on November 28, the BJP promised to implement the NRC.
"Now tell two things - No harmony between PM and Home Minister? Is there a rift between power and organisation?. Or together they are making a fool of the country," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
He said while Modi said in Delhi that there will be no NRC and no detention centres, Shah in West Bengal said the NRC will be implemented across the country, the BJP has also said this in its Jharkhand poll manifesto and in Parliament.
"How much will you befool the country," Surjewala asked, adding that the government in Lok Sabha has said there are 1,133 persons in detention centres.
Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, "Prime minister says one thing. Home minister says something else. But this is all part of the good cop-bad cop routine. Nobody should get fooled".
Party spokesperson Sanjay Jha said. “The NRC will not be implemented pan-India and neither will the CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act). Until we hear this formally, officially today by the government of India please don't believe the disingenuous fraudulent speeches."
Pawar told reporters in Mumbai that even Shah had also spoken on the NRC in the Rajya Sabha,
"When a major policy is brought, a discussion takes place at the government level. Such a policy will not come before the country without that. Secondly, the country's home minister had said in Parliament that they will bring NRC across the country," Pawar said.
Recalling that President Kovind too had talked about implementing the NRC across the country, Pawar said the President's speech reflects the government's policy. "Now to say there was no discussion on this (NRC in the Cabinet) is not right."
"I think the government has failed on every front. To divert attention of the public at large from such a situation, they are raising such issues and giving such speeches. Beyond that there is nothing in it," Pawar said.
Accusing Modi of "lying" about the NRC, the Left parties claimed that he was "rattled" by the intensity of the protests across the country against the amended Citizenship Act and the population register.
"Clearly rattled by the intensity of popular protests across the country against the CAA/NRC/NPR and the declaration by at least 10 chief ministers that they will not implement the NRC, PM Modi unleashed yesterday at Delhi a bundle of untruths aimed at misleading the people.
"BJP's 2019 election manifesto promised the NRC all over the country," a statement from the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.
Communist Party of India general secretary D Raja said while the prime minister had stated that the NRC was not on the government's agenda, Shah and other leaders had spoken out about it, even in Parliament.
"Modi did not participate in the debate on such a critical legislation (CAA). The home minister was piloting the bills -- CAB and the one on Article 370. Now the prime minister says that it is not a government agenda. Then who is speaking the truth and who is spreading lies?
"If what the prime minister has said is true, then will the government stop working on an NPR? We demand that the CAA be repealed, the NRC not be extended to the entire country and the NPR process stopped," he said.
At a press conference in Jaipur, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP's national vice president, alleged that the Congress was trying to create confusion among people over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the NRC.
“Discussions about the NRC are going on and suggestions have been sought but confusion is being created. The NRC will also be implemented but after detailed discussions,” he said.