Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s silence on the National Citizens’ Register, coupled with his deputy’s announcement about the preliminary round of the exercise beginning in the state, has upset his partymen. Today, Pavan Varma, a close aide of the Chief Minister, wrote an open letter to him, asking that he take a “principled stand against the CAA-NPR-NRC scheme, and reject its nefarious agenda to divide India”.
Party sources have said that Nitish Kumar will make his stand clear only after January 19, when he finishes a yatra on prohibition.
“The politics of principle cannot be sacrificed at the altar of short-term gain,” Mr Varma’s letter read.
“A clear cut public statement by you to this effect would be a major step towards preserving and strengthening the idea of India to which, i know, you yourself, are committed,” the letter added.
Mr Kumar had changed his stance on the contentious Citizenship Bill on the eve of its passing in parliament. Though his party had opposed it all through, it made a turnaround at the last moment.
His silence on the NRC has now become a cause of concern in the state, which has around 16 per cent Muslims.
In the last round of by-elections in the state in October, a chunk of these votes had gone to Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal. The Chief Minister had fought back, taking time to meet groups of Muslim leaders.
In his letter Pavan Varma said he had opposed the party’s change of stance on the CAA.
“You have always stood for a secular India… It is for this reason that I appealed to you to reconsider the party’s support to the divisive and discriminatory CAB. I was deeply disappointed when my request went unheeded,” the letter read.
On Saturday, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi had said the NPR will begin in Bihar from May 15, setting up a storm of protests. Senior JDU leader Shyam Razak said he was not aware for any such decision and that Nitish Kumar was the right and “competent person” to make such announcements.
Last month, the Union cabinet approved a proposal to update the NPR (National Population Register) that will be conducted nationwide except in Assam. The NPR is regarded as the first step towards the National Register of Citizens.
But amid the turmoil over the citizenship law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there was no talk on NRC as of now. It was underscored by Union home Minister Amit Shah.