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BJP hopes to cash in on Citizenship Bill in Bengal


Kolkata | With the Lok Sabha polls approaching, the West Bengal BJP hopes to cash in on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to reach out to the one crore odd Hindu Bangladeshi refugees in the state once the bill is implemented.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to the non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

According to a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, the bill will not only endear them to the Hindu refugees in the state but will also help them counter the allegation of being an “anti-Bengali” party.

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and several opposition parties in the state had levelled the saffron party as “anti-Bengali”, following the publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) drafts in Assam last year.

Mohit Roy, convenor of the BJP’s refugee cell, told PTI that the bill would change the future of the one crore Bengali refugees living in West Bengal.

“Various political parties have played with the emotions of the Bengali refugees living in the state for the past several decades. Neither the TMC nor the CPI(M), which boast of being champions of refugees, did nothing for the Bengali refugees. It is (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and the BJP which will give them citizenship. This is a historic decision,” he said.

In the next few days, the party will set up camps and make people aware of the bill, especially in the bordering districts such as North and South 24 Parganas, Coochbehar, Uttar Dinajpur and Nadia which have a very high concentration of Bengali refugees, BJP sources said.

These districts account for around 10-12 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The saffron party has identified West Bengal as a priority state and party chief Amit Shah has set a target of winning 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the upcoming general election.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be one of the top issues in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh told PTI.

He said the passage of the bill had exposed the “double standards” of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the TMC, who had played politics with the emotions of the refugees in West Bengal.

“The TMC had tried to portray the BJP as an anti-Bengali party when the NRC drafts were published. Now what would they say? We have passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to give rights to Hindus and Bengalis,” Ghosh added.

He said the BJP did not believe in vote-bank politics like the TMC, which was busy appeasing a specific community in the state.

Senior TMC MP Saugata Roy dubbed the bill as “divisive” and “insidious” that went against the basic tenets of the Constitution.

State minister and North 24 Parganas president of the TMC Jyotipriyo Mullick told PTI that the people of Bengal were well aware of the kind of development initiatives the Mamata Banerjee-led party had undertaken for the benefit of the refugees in the state.

“Unlike the BJP, we do not believe in dividing people on the basis of religion. We do not differentiate between refugees on the basis of religion,” he said.

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