In Ram Vilas Paswan’s pitch to amend NPR form, a message to ally BJP
On Tuesday, Paswan, who is also a Union minister, said in Patna that it was at his instance that the Home Ministry agreed to “amend” the NPR forms.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s suggestion to amend the National Population Register (NPR) forms is not only an attempt to assuage concerns of his vote bank, a sizeable section of whom are the socially and economically deprived Dalits, but is also a message to its ally, the BJP that the party’s suggestions on key issues should be taken on board.
On Tuesday, Paswan, who is also a Union minister, said in Patna that it was at his instance that the Home Ministry agreed to “amend” the NPR forms wherein columns like those pertaining to places of birth of parents had triggered fears that the exercise might be a precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“Even I do not know my date of birth. Do I cease to become a citizen on that account? I had told the Home Ministry that these things will cause confusion. Now the ministry has amended the forms,” he told reporters.
While the LJP has stood with the BJP on the issue of amending the citizenship act and previously when the government decided to read down Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, the party, with a sizeable hold over the Dalit vote in Bihar, where an election is due later this year, has decided to opt for a cautious approach vis-a-vis NRC and NPR.
Dalits and other backwards caste representatives have also been part of the anti-CAA protests across the country and these groups are skeptical about how NRC will unroll. Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad has been highlighting that the Dalits who are largely landless fear that the NRC will dispossess them of their rights, should they fail to provide adequate documents to support their claims of domicile.
In such a scenario, the LJP is taking no chances. By supporting the NPR and the proposed NRC, it does not want to be seen as a party that has compromised or sidelined its vote bank.
So, while Paswan clarified that while the amended citizenship act cannot revoke citizenship of an Indian citizen “whether he is a Dalit or from the minority community”, in December, when protests against the proposed NRC began, he had to allay fear by pointing out that his party would not support a law that does not take care of interest of the minority and Dalits.
“There is no divergence of views on CAA. We support the law that gives persecuted minorities citizenship and those spreading canard against it are politically motivated. CAA does not affect Indian citizens. But as far as NRC is concerned, we have said we’d like to see the provisions of the bill,” said LJP spokesperson Sanjay Saraf.
Concern about the provisions of NRC is latest in the rounds of bickering between the allies, which was manifest during the hard bargain that the LJP drove ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
With an eye on consolidating its vote bank, the LJP has in the past questioned the government on what he alleges is “negligible” representation of Dalits and OBCs in higher judiciary.
Ahead of the upcoming election in Bihar, the LJP is expected to up the ante to have it wishes accommodated. BJP’s ties with allies under a strain, the Shiva Sena has quit the NDA and the party is not contesting with Shiromani Akaldi Dal (SAD) in Delhi, the LJP will ensure that its demands are met.
In the 2015 assembly polls, which the JD(U) fought with RLD, the BJP, which contested 157 seats in alliance with the LJP and others, won only 53 seats.
The LJP, which quit the Congress-led UPA to join the NDA ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, is not happy with the BJP’s decision to make its candidate contest from Seemapuri in Delhi instead of its strong-hold of Burari. “We will ensure that the party is not forced to accept such choices in the future,” said a party leader in Delhi.