Prime Minister Narendra Modi's suggestion on Sunday that nationwide rollout of National Register of Citizens - a move hugely criticised by the opposition - is not happening, has been questioned strongly by the opposition. Both the Congress and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee pointed out that he was contradicting his own Home Minister Amit Shah, who has spoken of the matter not just in various forums, but even in parliament.
At Sunday's rally in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, PM Modi accused the Congress and "urban Naxals" of spreading rumours about the issue.
"I want to tell the 130 crore citizens of India that since my government has come to power, since 2014, there has been no discussion on NRC anywhere. Only after the Supreme Court's order, this exercise was done for Assam," he said in his 97-minute speech, most of it devoted to the NRC and the new citizenship law, protests against which are being held across the country.
"Lies are being spread. There are leaders who told in TV interviews that NRC across India will involve such heavy expenses, but I want to say why you are you wasting your mental energy in something that is not even there? (Jo hai hi nahi usme kahaan itna dimag khapa rahe ho rey)," he added.
The National Register of Citizens, or NRC, meant to weed out illegal migrants from the country, was rolled out in Assam earlier this year and left 19 lakh people out, who are now unable to prove their citizenship. Many of them are now in detention centres. The opposition has alleged that the procedure, along with the new citizenship law, would be used to target Muslims.
The opposition has been crying foul ever since Amit Shah said at an election rally that NRC was "for the whole country".
"The CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) will come, all refugees will be given citizenship, and after that a National Register of Citizens will be formed. Refugees need not worry. Infiltrators will have to worry. Understand the chronology - first CAB, then NRC, and NRC is not just for West Bengal but for the full country," Mr Shah had said while campaigning in West Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha election.
On November 20, Amit Shah declared in parliament that the NRC will be extended to the entire country. "Whatever is happening in Assam is under the orders of the Supreme Court. The NRC process will be undertaken in the entire country," he had said.
The Congress and Mamata Banerjee immediately called out the PM on the issue. In a tweet, Mamata Banerjee accused him of contradicting his Home Minister.
Whatever I said is there in public forum, whatever you said is there for people to judge. With #PM contradicting #HomeMinister publicly on Nationwide NRC, who is dividing fundamental idea of India? People will definitely decide who is right & who is wrong #IRejectCAA#IRejectNRC— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 22, 2019
Pointing out that Amit Shah had spoken on the government's strategy on various forums, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, "The Home Minister said this in both the houses, it is now in public domain," he said.
The plan to "implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country" has also been mentioned in the BJP manifesto for the Lok Sabha election.