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Naveen Patnaik: Yes to CAA and no to NRC

“The Citizenship Amendment Act has nothing to do with Indian citizens, It only deals with foreigners. The Biju Janata Dal MPs, both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, had made it clear that we do not support NRC. I would like to appeal to our citizens to let peace prevails and not to indulge in rumour mongering,” Naveen Patnaik told the media on Wednesday.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Dec 18, 2019, 10.24 PM IST
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BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Chief Minister, whose Biju Janata Dal (BJD) party voted to pass the Citizen’s Amendment Bill (CAB), said he will not support the Narendra Modi government’s plan for a pan-India National Registry of Citizens (NRC).

“The Citizenship Amendment Act has nothing to do with Indian citizens, it only deals with foreigners. The Biju Janata Dal MPs, both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, had made it clear that we do not support NRC. I would like to appeal to our citizens to let peace prevails and not to indulge in rumour mongering,” Naveen Patnaik told the media on Wednesday.

Patnaik’s assurance comes a day after minority organisations and those opposed to the bill staged a massive protest rally in the capital Bhubaneswar.

“If Patnaik says he will not support NRC we have to take his word for it. The minority community has supported him all these years because he has never practiced divisive politics in Odisha,” said Mohammed Shahnawaz, president of the Jama Masjid in Bhubaneswar and one of the organisers of Tuesday’s peaceful rally.

BJD, is not a part of the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre but has lent its support to almost all of the Modi government’s bills. It even voted a BJP candidate to the Rajya Sabha. This has left the Muslim community in the state a little confused. And not all are buying into Patnaik’s assurances.

Senior journalist Rabi Das accuses the regional party in power for a fifth consecutive term in the state of being opportunistic and Patnaik’s announcement as an attempt to fix his image.

“Despite being a regional party in a federal set-up, BJD supported the abolition of Article 370, the Triple Talaq Bill and now the CAB. This raises a question on Naveen Patnaik’s secular credentials. He may not adhere to any ideology, but people recognise him as Biju Patnaik’s son and Biju Patnaik was a committed secularist. The BJP blames the Congress for partition, well Biju Babu was very much part of that very Congress then,” says Das.

Muslims account for about two percent of the state’s population. The BJD’s stand in Parliament on NRC in Assam being “in national interest” had earned special mention from Home Minister Amit Shah in August.

Patnaik led a coalition government of the BJP and the BJD for the first nine years as CM. He broke ties with the BJP following communal riots between Tribal Christians and Hindu Dalits in Kandhamal in 2008 but has also kept the Congress, its traditional rival in the state, at arm’s length.

In Odisha, claiming “equidistance” from both the BJP and the Congress, Patnaik’s seemingly indomitable BJD has come a long way. During elections for example it welcomed the former BJP and Bajrang Dal leader Subhash Chauhan, whose recent appointment as chairperson of Western Odisha Development Council has not provoked much comment.

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