Mamata Banerjee strongly opposes Assam NRC process, but TMC chief didn't always disapprove of action against illegal immigration

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly spoken out against the central government's National Register of Citizens (NRC) project in Assam, accusing New Delhi of playing politics ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The state Assembly also passed a motion against the final draft of the NRC on Tuesday, adopting a unanimous proposal condemning it. The motion was moved under Rule 185 by West Bengal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee.

On Tuesday, Mamata, once again, warned that the exclusion of 40 lakh people from the Assam NRC could lead to a "bloodbath" and a "civil war" in the country. The Trinamool Congress chief asked Home Minister Rajnath Singh to clarify whether the Centre intends to carry out an exercise similar to Assam NRC in her state.

 Mamata Banerjee strongly opposes Assam NRC process, but TMC chief didnt always disapprove of action against illegal immigration

File image of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

This came a day after she addressed a press conference in Kolkata, where she accused the BJP of resorting to "votebank politics". "This divide-and-rule policy will finish the country," she said, alleging that it was a "game plan" to isolate and throw out Assam's Bengali-speaking people and Biharis. She also claimed that the names of people who have passports and Aadhaar and voter ID cards had also been excluded from the final draft.

The BJP, meanwhile, stoked the fire even further, with West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh saying the NRC exercise would be carried out in West Bengal as well if the party formed government in the state in the next Assembly elections in 2021.

"If we (BJP) are voted to power in Bengal, then we too will implement the NRC in the state. We will send back the illegal immigrants to Bangladesh. Tough days are ahead. We will not tolerate any illegal immigrants in Bengal," Ghosh told reporters, after which Mamata said she would travel to Assam if the situation called for it. "I am sending a team of party MPs to Assam and if necessary, I will go there too," she added.

Change in stance

However, Mamata's words now are in stark contrast to the sentiments she had expressed 13 years ago, when she was in the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly and also in the Lok Sabha, where her current ally — the Congress — was in power.

Even back then, the issue of illegal voters in West Bengal was foremost on Mamata's mind, though she had displayed much different sentiments on the matter at the time. As reported by The Telegraph on 5 August, 2005, Mamata had demanded a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the subject of illegal Bangladeshi migration, and leaders of her party had claimed that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was using these voters to destabilise democracy.

"Illegal migrants from Bangladesh are also part of the voters' list in West Bengal. The state government has done nothing about it. Therefore, the issue must be discussed," she had said.

She had accused the Speaker — another parliamentarian from West Bengal, Somnath Chatterjee — of being politically biased. "Whenever I want to raise an issue, I am not allowed to speak. As a member of this House, I also have the right to raise issues of concern to my people," she had said, attributing motives to the Speaker.

Mamata had then said she would resign if she was not given a chance to speak in the House, a resignation Chatterjee later rejected. The Trinamool chief had even flung a bunch of papers at the deputy speaker, who was running the House then, after being denied a chance to speak.

Her protests in the Lok Sabha and comments against Bangladeshi immigrants were expunged in 2005, but the aggression with which she had taken up the matter in the House will be remembered in the history of Parliament.

Today, this memory from 2005 prompts this question: Why the 180 on Bangladeshi immigrants? What brought about this change of heart for Mamata Banerjee?

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Updated Date: Aug 01, 2018 16:02:59 IST