GUWAHATI, Nov 6 - Principal opposition Congress today accused the ruling BJP of misusing the issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB to bring about polarisation and division in society.
Addressing the media here today, former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that while the NRC in Assam is a �historical legacy� and part of the Assam Accord, now that the update process is almost complete the focus should now shift to issues like development, economic growth, employment generation, health and education.
Ramesh was in the city as part of a six-member team formed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi which is visiting the northeastern states to discuss the twin issues of NRC and CAB and get feedback from the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) of this region.
The team is headed by former Union Minister and general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Mukul Wasnik.
The team will later submit its report to the Congress president.
�Today we held a discussion with the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) here. The overwhelming view of the Congress in Assam is against the CAB. The Bill is anti-secular. It violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Our opposition is not on political grounds. Rather, ours in a principled opposition. With regard to the NRC, the unanimous view of the party is that the NRC was a creation of the Congress,� Ramesh said.
The former Union Minister said the NRC was needed here due to historical reasons peculiar to Assam.
He added that the first NRC in Assam took place in 1951 and update of the document was mentioned in the Assam Accord of 1985 as well. Ramesh said the actual process of NRC update began following the 2005 tripartite talks presided over by Dr Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister.
�Steps were taken to implement the NRC component of the Assam Accord following the tripartite talks. The Supreme Court began monitoring the NRC update exercise from 2013. Now the process is virtually complete. Over 19 lakh people are out of the NRC. What the NRC demonstrates is a complete hollowness and bogusness (sic) of BJP�s propaganda,� Ramesh said.
He added, �The hollowness of BJP�s propaganda is demonstrated from the fact that Amit Shah is now not talking about the NRC of Assam. Rather, he is talking of NRC in states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Delhi and Karnataka. BJP�s lies have been exposed by the Supreme Court monitored process. NRC was Congress� creation. Now the focus should be on issues like unemployment, development, economic growth, health and education.�
Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha MP, said BJP leaders are trying to polarise society by talking of implementing NRC in states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Haryana, Karnataka and Delhi.
�NRC was for the purpose of identifying the bonafide Indian citizens in Assam. Both NRC and CAB are now being used by the BJP to bring division among people. Congress party will take a position that is consistent with the principles enshrined in the Constitution of India,� he said.
Asked about differences of opinion within the Congress party leaders in Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley on the CAB, Ramesh said, �Congress party leaders have multiple viewpoints. We listen to all of them and then arrive at a consensus. Today�s exercise was part of the consensus building exercise. Our team is visiting Silchar tomorrow and we will listen to our colleagues there. Afterwards, we will submit our report to the party president. The general consensus is that CAB is anti-secular and against the Constitution. The ultimate decision will be arrived at by the Congress Working Committee (CWC).�
Admitting that the ruling NDA enjoys numerical superiority in Parliament, Ramesh said that Congress will try to build an alliance of like-minded parties inside the House.
The team members also met representatives of the PCCs of Nagaland, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh here today. Ramesh said that all those State committees have come out against the CAB, while they are yet to discuss the NRC issue within themselves.
Ramesh said that Article 371 will not be able to provide any protection to the indigenous people of the Northeast if CAB is implemented and accused the BJP of spreading falsehoods to the contrary.
�If Article 370 is a temporary chapter, then Article 371 is also the same,� he said. The senior leader said that Congress will vehemently oppose any move to privatise BPCL, which holds a majority stake in the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL).
�The public sector was built with great efforts. Modi has started selling the PSUs to his friends. Six airports, including that of Guwahati, have been privatised and six more will also be privatised soon... the Airports Authority of India has now become Adani Airports of India... We will continue to oppose the Modi government�s economic policies,� Ramesh said.