Union minister Shantanu Thakur on Monday claimed that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA will be implemented across the country within a week. Ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, on the other hand, dismissed the claim as a “poll rhetoric”, while vowing to prevent CAA implementation in the state.
Thakur, the BJP MP from Bongaon Lok Sabha seat, which has a substantial population of Matua community, outlined plans for swift implementation of the contentious legislation within seven days. The CAA, enacted by the BJP-led government at the Centre in 2019, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim immigrants, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014.
Addressing a public rally at Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district on Sunday evening, Thakur, also the Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, said, “Ram Mandir has been inaugurated. Within the next one week, CAA will be implemented not only in West Bengal but also across the country.” Continuing his critique of the TMC government in West Bengal for its staunch opposition to the CAA, he said, “This state government claims that if you have voter and Aadhaar cards, you are a citizen of this country and can cast your votes. If that is the case, then why is it that thousands of people here have been deprived of their right to vote? The chief minister has to answer why these people have been deprived.” He emphasised the imperative of implementing the CAA to safeguard future generations.
Speaking to reporters in Calcutta on Monday, Thakur, also a prominent Matua community leader, reiterated, “I stand by what I stated yesterday. The CAA will be implemented within seven days. This is my guarantee.” The Matuas, comprising a significant portion of the state’s Scheduled Caste population, have been migrating to West Bengal since the 1950s, fleeing religious persecution in erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
Since the nineties, political parties in West Bengal have actively courted the support of the Matuas, whose substantial population and tendency to vote cohesively render them a valuable voting bloc.
The Matua community is anticipated to reap the most benefits from the implementation of the CAA.
Thakur’s assertion regarding the CAA’s implementation comes amidst reports this month suggesting that the legislation’s rules would be notified “much before” the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections.
His remarks elicited strong reactions from the Trinamool Congress, which has vehemently opposed the CAA, labelling it as “divisive”..
“As usual, the BJP is resorting to its old tactics of using CAA. Our party supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has categorically stated that CAA won’t be implemented in West Bengal. People residing in the state are already citizens of this country,” remarked state minister Shashi Panja.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said the BJP’s raising of the CAA issue ahead of the Lok Sabha polls is “just election rhetoric”..
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, addressing a programme in Cooch Behar district, accused the BJP of raising the CAA issue solely for electoral gains ahead of the elections.
“We are the ones who took to the streets to protest against the NRC (National Register of Citizens). They (BJP) are now chanting CAA as they aim to politicise it before the elections. Everyone is a citizen of this country; if they are not voters of this country, how are they benefiting from central government schemes?” she said.
The TMC supremo advised locals in Cooch Behar, particularly Rajbanshis, to ensure that their names are on the voters’ list to “protect themselves” from the CAA.
The West Bengal BJP unit declined to comment on Thakur’s statement but expressed optimism about the CAA’s implementation before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“I cannot comment on what he (Thakur) said; only the government can speak about it. The government and the party are two separate entities in our system. However, I have confidence in Union Home Minister Amit Shah that the CAA rules would be drafted before the Lok Sabha elections,” said BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar.
Last month, Shah had reiterated that the implementation of CAA is inevitable as it is the law of the land.
During a BJP meeting in Calcutta, he accused Banerjee of misleading people on the CAA issue.
The TMC has consistently opposed the CAA, with Banerjee alleging that the BJP is “exploiting” the citizenship issue for political gains.
The promise of implementing the controversial CAA served as a major electoral platform for the BJP in the previous Lok Sabha and assembly polls in West Bengal, with party leaders believing it played a pivotal role in the BJP’s ascent in the state.
According to the manual of parliamentary procedures, the rules for any legislation should have been framed within six months of presidential assent or an extension should be sought from the committees on subordinate legislation in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Since 2020, the Home Ministry has been taking extensions at regular intervals from the parliamentary committees for framing the rules.
Several people lost their lives during the protests after Parliament passed the law.