File photo of BJP president Amit Shah. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday asked opposition parties to make their stand clear on the issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants while asserting that National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be implemented in Assam "to the last full stop" as his party stands for national security and Indians' rights.
Dismissing criticism by parties like the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Shah told a press conference that the process for NRC, whose mandate is to identify illegal immigrants, was started in 2005, when the UPA was in power, but the government lacked the courage "to throw out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants".
"It (NRC) will be implemented to the last full stop and comma," he said.
Taking on West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has accused the BJP of pursuing a 'divide and rule' policy, Shah alleged that she saw a "vote bank" in illegal immigrants to win in elections while his party was looking at the security of the country and rights of its citizens.
He rejected NRC's criticism on the ground of human rights, saying people who are talking about it should also be concerned about human rights of the people of Assam.
"Do people of Assam have no human rights? NRC has been made to protect human rights of Indian citizens," he said.
No Indian citizen should be concerned and natives of any other state living in Assam would not be meted out any injustice, Shah said, adding, NRC will be implemented firmly and fairly.
The BJP has seized on the issue that resonates with its broader agenda of nationalism and Hindutva to corner opposition parties in the election year, with Shah pitching the party as one standing for rights of Indians as opposed to its rivals who are concerned with the rights of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
"The BJP is committed to the national security and safety of its citizens. This is our top priority. All other parties should clarify their stand," he said, asking them to answer is 'yes or no' on whether they support NRC.
He said the NRC is the soul of the Assam accord which the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had signed and it clearly stipulates that every single illegal immigrant would be identified and his name struck off the voters list.
However, several Congress governments which ruled at the centre and the state lacked the courage to implement it.
The Supreme Court later stepped in and the Modi government started the process, he said, adding that the apex court is monitoring the entire exercise.
"I want to ask the Congress why you are questioning the NRC for vote bank. The Congress started the NRC process in 2005. But you lacked the courage to throw out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants because vote bank was important for you, not national security and rights of citizens," he said.
The Congress should not put vote bank politics should above national interest, he said.
It is a matter of "grave sorrow" that no party apart from the BJP and the BJD found it fit to say that illegal immigrants have no place in this country.
The BJP is not doing politics over it and its stand has been consistent on the issue of whether in power or in opposition, he said.
The Congress has a habit of changing its stand, he alleged and took a dig at its president Rahul Gandhi, asking him to remember his grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi's statements that illegal immigrants have no place in India.
Asked about human rights concerns raised by some parties and rights bodies, he said he is concerned about the rights of India citizens whose resources were being grabbed by illegal immigrants.
He also condemned Banerjee for her warning that there could be civil war and bloodbath, saying the country was divided once in the name of civil war.
"She should clarify what kind of civil war she is talking about," he said.
Asked about a demand of West Bengal BJP leaders for an NRC in the state, Shah said the NRC is presently confined to Assam and the party will take a stand on such issues at an appropriate time.
The BJP has often spoken about the issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in West Bengal and hopes that it will become a major political plank in the state, where Shah is aiming to win 22 of its 42 Lok Sabha seats in the next elections. It had won two in 2014.
Shah said he chose to express his views on the NRC through the media after opposition members did not let him speak in the Rajya Sabha, which was adjourned for the day following protests by rival members over his attack on the Congress.
The claim by some parties that it will become an inter-state dispute is an attempt to create confusion, Shah said, condemning such statements.
He said the NRC in its initial inquiry has found that 40 lakh people living in Assam are not Indian citizens but people can file their objections and verifications will be done as per the process laid down by the apex court.