The Shiv Sena's support for the contentious citizenship law CAA and the National Population Register NPR was confirmed today as a key point of difference in Maharashtra's ruling coalition as Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the CAA is no threat and he would not stop implementation of NPR in the state. But Nationalist Congress chief Sharad Pawar, who had a crucial role in bringing together the ideologically disparate Sena and the Congress, played it down, saying they will discuss the matter with Uddhav Thackeray's party and bring it on the same page."We will convince the Sena," he said.
At a media interaction in Sindhudurg, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said: "The CAA and the NRC (National Register of Citizens) are different and NPR (the National Population Register) is different. No one has to worry if the CAA gets implemented".
'The NRC is not there and will not be implemented in the state... The Centre has not discussed NRC as of now," he said, citing the government's assurance after countrywide protests that it is not happening now. But if implemented, the NRC would affect not just Hindus or Muslims but also the tribals, he added.
The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have been vehemently against the CAA and NRC as well as the NPR. The CAA - which expedites citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan - taken together with the NRC (meant to weed out illegal migrants) would be used by the government to target the Muslims, they have said.
They have also refused to accept Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance about the nationwide rollout of NRC, saying he was contradicting Home Minister Amit Shah, who has spoken of the matter not just in various forums, but even parliament.
The NPR too, appeared an unresolved issue. While the opposition has called the first step to the implementation of the NRC and most Congress-ruled states have stopped the exercise, Mr Thackeray described it as "census".
"NPR is a census, and I don't find that anyone will be affected as it happens every ten years," Mr Thackeray told reporters today.
Under the circumstances, the stand of the Sena - which also voted for the CAA in the Lok Sabha and abstained in the Rajya Sabha - is a loss of face for both parties.
"We have opposed it (CAA, NRC and NPR) earlier too. We even opposed it in theb Rajya Sabha," Sharad Pawar said. But he pointed out that the three parties have agreed on a Common Minimum Programme, and for now, focussing on it to steer Maharashtra is more important.