New Delhi: Under pressure from widespread demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to launch a 10-day door-to-door awareness campaign beginning on January 5 to “dispel misinformation” on the issue.
The party plans to reach out to at least 3 crore families during its “Jan Jagaran Abhiyan”, in which it may distance itself from the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Union home minister Amit Shah and most senior BJP leaders had been canvassing extensively to implement the NRC over the past two years. However, as large-scale protests against it spread, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a recent Delhi election rally, attempted to dissociate his government from the process.
Soon after Shah made it clear at a Jodhpur rally on Friday that the Union government will “not budge even an inch” on the CAA, BJP general secretary Anil Jain announced the campaign to mobilise opinion in support of the law. He said that no Indian Muslim will be affected by the CAA. He stressed that even the NRC or the National Population Register (NPR) do not threaten the constitutional rights of Indian Muslims. “India has only one religion which is its Constitution,” he said.
He repeated the prime minister’s words that there is no proposal of a nationwide NRC currently, adding that “a nation-wide consultation will be held whenever a decision on rolling out the NRC”. He said although the NRC is in the party’s election manifesto, he dismissed the current round of protests as a result of misinformation. “The Congress and other parties are spreading lies and creating unrest in the name of CAA for political gains,” said Jain.
Awareness campaigns in 42 major cities
The saffron party will conduct awareness campaigns in 42 major cities and around 700 district centres. Shah is expected to launch it in the poll-bound Delhi, while party’s working president J.P. Nadda and defence minister Rajnath Singh will do the rounds in Uttar Pradesh. Other senior leaders will also be deployed in various other cities to address rallies and hold press conferences.
According to news reports, Union minister Nitin Gadkari will address a rally in Nagpur, Piyush Goyal in Mumbai, Sadananda Gowda in Bangalore, Nirmala Sitharaman in Jaipur, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Smriti Irani in Haryana and Narendra Singh Tomar in Madhya Pradesh among others.
India Today reported that apart from door-to-door visits, the campaign will also have “street corner meetings, seminars, street plays, advertisements in local newspapers, audio visual capsules on movies about refugees coming to India after partition and using social media to create a positive narrative on the CAA.”
The party aims to deploy around three lakh workers to carry out the ground-level campaign.
The BJP IT cell will back the campaign by trending hashtags like #CAAJanJagran and #IndiaSupportsCAA on social media platforms. It will also launch a toll free number for people to call to register their support for the issue.
To up the ante on opposition also
At the same time, the party will also up its attack on the opposition in parliament. On Tuesday, BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao filed a privilege petition before the Rajya Sabha, demanding contempt proceedings against Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is one of the 11 chief ministers to have boycotted CAA. On Friday, the Kerala assembly also passed a resolution against the controversial Act, deciding that the state will not implement it.
The BJP is up against an almost unified opposition on the issue. Even as the party revealed its plans to conduct an awareness campaign, opposition leaders signalled they would alos intensify their protest. Randeep Surjewala, the Congress’s chief spokesperson, said on Friday that even the BJP’s allies are not entirely supporting the Centre’s intransigence. He said that the BJP’s Assam chief minister Sarbandanda Sonowal had also rejected the CAA, which may allow non-Muslim immigrants, excluded in the NRC, to get citizenship. On Thursday, Sonowal tweeted, “As a son of Assam, I will never settle foreigners in my state. This Sarbananda Sonowal will never allow this….”
BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan also tweeted to say that none can be denied citizenship on the basis of religion.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too said that the CAA will not merely impact Muslims but also Hindus. Calling it an “unnecessary” law, he said “We don’t need this law, it is completely unnecessary. Where will we accommodate 20 million Hindus from Pakistan?”
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, too, extended his support to Pinarayi Vijayan for passing a resolution against the CAA in the assembly.
Retired top government officials and bureaucrats have also been speaking up against the Act. On Friday, former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon described the CAA-NPR-NRC as a “self-inflicted goal”. “We have gifted our adversaries platforms to attack us,” he said, adding that barring a few-right wing European MPs and a section of the Indian diaspora, the international community has condemned the Union government’s moves.