The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar issued notification for the National Population Register -- the first step towards the nationwide rollout of National Registry of Citizens -- last month. The notification dated December 18, which is in NDTV's possession, says the exercise will begin on May 15 -- the timeline given by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi yesterday.
KC Tyagi, the spokesperson of the Chief Minister's party, the Janata Dal United, said, "We have no objection to NPR, as it was started during Congress regime and there's no objection to this".
The announcement by Mr Modi, however, was questioned by industries minister and senior JDU leader Shyam Razak, who claimed he was unaware of any such decision. Sushil Modi, he added, might have made the statement in his "personal capacity" and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the right and "competent person" to make such announcements.
Mr Kumar -- who changed stance and provided last-minute support to the citizenship law -- has not mentioned his party's stance on the population register, despite repeated requests from a section of his partymen. The party said he would make his stand clear only after January 19, when he finishes a few engagements, including a yatra on climate change.
Despite the lack of public acknowledgement, the Bihar government's notification indicates that the Chief Minister is on board with the idea of NRC, which, critics say, is discriminatory on religious grounds.
In a letter to Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wrote: "There is a fear that the NRC will be implemented throughout the country, on which conflicting statements have been emerging from the Government of India, which generates no confidence whatsoever. This, when read along with CAA would automatically deprive many, (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship."
The Centre, which maintains that the NRC would help weed out illegal migrants from thecountry, has said that there is no plan to conduct NRC as of now - a stance clearly at variance with its promise to take it across the country -- following countrywide protests on the citizenship law.
Several Chief Ministers, including Mamata Banerjee of neighbouring Bengal, have refused to implement either law in their states. Last month, Mamata Banerjee, though a notification had stopped the National Population Register. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan followed.