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Analysis | Congress assessing how prolonged focus on CAA/NRC will impact its electoral fortunes

Of the 29 States, four States have so far passed a resolution rejecting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), a legislation that was cleared by Parliament on December 11.

Kerala was the first one to do so on December 31, followed by Punjab on January 17, Rajasthan on January 25 and West Bengal on January 27. Together these four States send 100 members to Lok Sabha.

Of these, only two are Congress-ruled States.

The Chief Ministers of the other three Congress-ruled States — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry — have spoken out against the CAA and asserted that the National Register for Citizens will not be extended to their respective States, but a formal resolution against the CAA has not been moved in the Assembly. The official word is that the Budget sessions are scheduled for February in all the three States during which the resolution will be tabled. And there is so far no word from Maharashtra and Jharkhand where the Congress is a junior partner in the government.

The Congress feels that Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand results followed by protests against the CAA, which took the government by surprise, have opened up space for them and started an anti-government narrative which so far was missing. But the party is not sure on how prolonged focus on the CAA/NRC will impact its electoral fortunes.

The insiders say the decision to push tabling the resolution for the Budget session is primarily for two reasons. One there is a growing view in the party that discussions around the CAA has rapidly reduced down to a communal debate. “Yes, as per our convictions we have to oppose a blatantly unconstitutional law such as CAA but the question we need to answer is does it politically help us. If there is a Hindu-Muslim polarisation on the issue, then BJP will benefit. Also this obliterates any discussion on the economy,” an AICC secretary said on condition of anonymity.

Second, the party feels that the Delhi Assembly elections, scheduled for February 8, can provide empirical evidence on the public opinion. The party is waiting to see if the BJP drastically improves its tally from the current three seats in the 70-member Assembly based on a campaign solely dependent on the CAA. “Once the Delhi Assembly results are out, we can be more sure-footed on the CAA,” the AICC secretary said.

“In Chhattisgarh, the Muslim population is merely 2-3%. Madhya Pradesh also has similar numbers. In both the States, the resolution will eventually be passed but perhaps not with the same urgency like the border States of Rajasthan and Punjab,” a leader from Chhattisgarh said.

The CAA/NRC protests continue to be led by common citizens. While the Opposition will pick the flag once the citizens’ participation wanes, so far it has failed to make a collective and emphatic stance. Five key Opposition parties — Trinamool Congress, DMK, SP, BSP and AAP failed to attend a meeting organised by the Congress of all the Opposition parties on January 13.

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