Even as the Parliament has passed the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill, the TMC and Mamata Banerjee have repeatedly emphasised that the CAB and NRC will not be allowed in West Bengal. On the day when the CAB was tabled in the Lok Sabha, Mamata Banerjee had said, “We will not allow anyone to deport any person from the country. There will be no NRC and no division. There can’t be a divide and rule policy; nothing is bigger than the country. People can have big political slogans but the country should not suffer due to it. It’s a divisive bill and shall be opposed at any cost.” She had added, “There is no need to worry about NRC and CAB. We will never ever allow it in Bengal. They can’t just throw out a legal citizen of this country or turn him/her a refugee.”
TMC MP Derek O’Brien reiterated TMC supremo’s position in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, and said, “This government only makes big promises but all their promises fail. Mamata Di has stated clearly that NRC and CAB will not be implemented in West Bengal.”
Today, Mamata Banerjee is trying to act as the guardian and protector of illegal immigrants entering India from Bangladesh, but there was a time when she had created a commotion in the lower house of the Parliament over the issue of illegal infiltrators in the state of West Bengal. Speaking in the Lok Sabha in the year 2005, she had said, “The infiltration in Bengal has become a disaster now… I have both the Bangladeshi & the Indian voters list. This is a very serious matter. I would like to know when would it be discussed in the House?” Therefore, the West Bengal CM who had opposed the influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants tooth and nail on the floor of the lower house of the Parliament 14 years ago, is now militating against the idea of identifying and deporting illegal immigrants.
It was largely due to her outrage and campaign against the Left Front government over the issue of illegal immigration that Mamata Banerjee was able to topple the government of the day in the year 2011. She was, therefore, a chief political beneficiary of the illegal immigrants’ issue in West Bengal. However, a lot has changed ever since she came into power in West Bengal. Deportation is no longer on her agenda, rather the protection of illegal infiltrators coming from Bangladesh has become her topmost priority.
The sudden and sharp shift in her agenda is again based on political convenience and expediency. In the recent past, the TMC has been accused of making illegal immigrants into prolific vote banks. Her staunch opposition of the NRC and the CAB only makes this accusation stronger. The ‘Bangladeshi’ immigrants have become a major vote bank in line with Mamata Banerjee’s emergence as the face of Islamic appeasement. Even though the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are not lawful citizens of India, there have been reports about such immigrants procuring fake Voter ID cards and therefore such immigrants might even exercise voting rights illegally. These reports only go on to prove that the issue of illegal immigrants getting their names on electoral rolls has only further compounded ever since 2005 when the TMC supremo had raised the issue in Parliament.
The NRC, whenever implemented in the state, will help in identifying and marking illegal immigrants that would be the first step in the process of large-scale deportation of such illegal infiltrators that have crossed over into India due to economic reasons. With this, it will also become difficult for the illegal immigrants to regularise their stay in India through fake paperwork and documentation. It is only natural that the first thing illegal immigrants look for after settling into India is to regularise their stay. And at least in the state of West Bengal, the reports of the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants obtaining fake voter ID cards show that they might be succeeding to some extent when it comes to illegally regularising their stay in India.
On the face of it, Mamata Banerjee’s insistence on ensuring that both NRC and CAB remain a dead letter in West Bengal reeks of utter disregard for the rule of law. The fact remains that irrespective of how badly these legislations might disturb her electoral equations, once cleared through the Parliament and signed into law by the President, they will apply with full effect upon the state of West Bengal. There is also a clear dichotomy in her stand over the CAB and the NRC. Mamata Banerjee led TMC has come out speaking against the implementation of a prospective NRC in West Bengal because it has taken an unjustifiable stance against deportation. But then it fails to explain why it is opposed to the CAB that will confer citizenship upon those minorities which were persecuted in Bangladesh.
Mamata Banerjee’s about-turn on deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, and absurd stance on the NRC and the CAB only expose her brand of political expediency and appeasement. Her opposition to NRC is based upon apprehensions of losing a potent vote bank in the form of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, whereas her staunch opposition to the CAB shows her fears about conferment of citizenship upon persecuted Bangladeshi minorities that will go on to further boost a rising BJP in West Bengal. The NRC and the CAB are Mamata Banerjee’s biggest political fears coming true, and this is why she seems to be taking a rather feeble and unjustifiable stance over this issue.