BJP exploiting citizenship issue for political gains: Mamata


PTI, Dec 28, 2023, 7:00 PM IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday alleged that the BJP was exploiting the citizenship issue for political gains.

Addressing party workers at Deganga in North 24 Parganas district, Banerjee wondered if people residing in the border areas did not have citizenship, how were they availing development schemes of the state and the Centre.

”As for citizenship, remember that all of you are citizens of this country. If you are not a citizen, how are you availing free ration, Swasthya Sathi (healthcare scheme), have PAN or Aadhaar cards? ”The BJP is exploiting the citizenship issue for its political agenda. It is misleading the people on the issue. Previously, grant of citizenship was decided by the district magistrates, but now those powers have been taken away from them for politics,” she said.

Banerjee alleged that the BJP’s agenda behind raising the citizenship issue was to ”divide people” on religious lines.

”They want to divide people. They want to give citizenship to someone and deny others. If one community is getting citizenship, the other community should also get it. This discrimination is wrong. We are against this discrimination,” she affirmed.

Banerjee highlighted the TMC government’s initiative to grant land rights to those who came from Bangladesh in 1971 and later. She stressed the importance of providing land rights to people residing in refugee colonies so that they don’t continue to live as refugees.

Banerjee’s comments followed closely on the heels of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks on Tuesday that no one can prevent the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act as it is the law of the land. Shah had also accused Banerjee of misleading people on the issue.

The TMC led by Mamata Banerjee has been opposing the CAA, which was passed by Parliament in 2019.

The promise of implementing the controversial CAA had been a major poll plank of the BJP in the last Lok Sabha and West Bengal assembly polls. The saffron party’s leaders consider it a plausible factor that led to the rise of the BJP in Bengal.

The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities like Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

In response to Shah’s recent statements, Banerjee underscored that the TMC government has already distributed freehold land title deeds to residents of refugee colonies, thereby regularising these settlements.

Reaching out to the Matua community, Banerjee criticised political parties that only visit Matua Thakurbari (headquarters of the sect) only during elections. She claimed credit for the development of Matua Thakurbari and accused the BJP of making empty promises during election seasons.

”Religion and politics are different. We love all religions. But remember, West Bengal must be kept in the hands of TMC. Because, if we get fewer seats, then the atrocities of BJP will increase, as you have seen their atrocities through NRC and CAA already,” she said.

Matuas, who make up a large chunk of the state’s Scheduled Caste population, had been migrating to West Bengal since the 1950s, primarily due to religious persecution in erstwhile East Pakistan and then Bangladesh.

With an estimated three million population in the state, the community influences result in at least four Lok Sabha seats in Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas districts.

Accusing the CPI(M) and the Congress, its key allies in the opposition INDIA bloc, of colluding with the BJP in West Bengal, Banerjee asserted that the TMC would spearhead the fight against the saffron camp in the state in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

”The CPI(M), BJP, and the Congress have forged an alliance in West Bengal and are actively campaigning against us. The INDIA opposition alliance will confront the saffron camp nationwide, with the TMC spearheading the battle against the BJP in West Bengal,” she asserted.

The TMC supremo highlighted the BJP’s labelling of opposition figures as ”thieves” and contended that the country has transformed into a ”democracy run by central agencies”.

Referring to the arrest of minister Jyotipriyo Mullick by the ED, Banerjee claimed it was an attempt by the BJP to hinder his party activities during the polls.

She criticised the BJP for allegedly using central agencies against opposition leaders, calling it a sign of the country transforming into a ”democracy run by central agencies”.

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