- Mamata Banerjee is spearheading the protests against the amended Act
- Her Kerala and Punjab counterparts have also refused to allow the law
- PM accused Ms Banerjee of reversing her stand to protect her job
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday took on the Chief Ministers who have refused to implement the contentious citizenship law, reminding them of their constitutional obligation. To Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been most vocal about her intention, he had a mocking advice: "Ask your Advocate General if you can do this". So far, several Chief Ministers, including Kerala's Pinarayi Vijayan and Punjab's Amarinder SIngh have refused to allow the citizenship law.
"Some are stating that they won't implement the Citizenship Amendment Act. You are the Chief Minister. You have taken oath on the constitution. You are under the national flag -- and then give such statements? At least talk to those who know law, if not openly, then behind closed doors," the Prime Minister said in a no-holds-barred attack on his detractors.
His predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Congress leaders and Chief Ministers like Tarun Gogoi and Ashok Gehlot also came under attack.
"When Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister, he said in parliament that we should give citizenship to those from Bangladesh who face persecution in terms of religion. If Modi does this, then does he become bad? There was a time when Tarun Gogoi, a Chief Minister for 15 years, said those who suffer in Bangladesh should get help. There was a time when Rajasthan Chief Minister (Ashok) Gehlot, spoke of granting shelter to those facing persecution," the Prime Minister said.
Accusing the Ms Banerjee of reversing her stand to protect her job, he said it was she who once complained about the illegal migration of Bangladesh nationals and "threw paper at the Speaker". Ms Banerjee has said a video clip of the matter, tweeted last week by state Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, was a fake.
She has also been spearheading the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Registry of Citizens and dared PM Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah to take an opinion poll on the subject. "Just because you are majority, you can't do just about anything," she said at a rally last week.
He also ridiculed her over her comment on a UN referendum, saying, "Today didi, Mamata didi, didi sidhi, kolkata se UNO pahunch gayi. (Didi went straight from Kolkata to UNO)". Ms Banerjee, who had asked the BJP to get a referendum on the citizenship law if it "dared", later clarified that she had meant an opinion poll.
Within hours, Mamata Banerjee hit back on Twitter. "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," her post read.
"Mamata Didi, what has happened to you? Why have you changed? Why are you spreading rumours?" PM Modi said.
"Powers come and go. Why are you scared? Trust people of Bengal. Why are they your enemies now?" he added, mocking the Chief Minister again over her party's performance in the Lok Sabha elections -- shabby in comparison to the BJP's remarkable gains. The party, which won just two seats of the state's 42 seats in 2014, won 18 this time -- feeding its hopes for unseating the Trinamool Congress in the next assembly elections.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act makes religion the test of citizenship in India for the first time. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution.
Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.