“Even I will not be able to answer if you ask me my mother’s date of birth,” Nitish told mediapersons in Patna on January 28. “In earlier times, people from rural backgrounds did not keep a note of such details. There could still be a large number of poor people who do not know their parents’ date and place of birth.”
The new NPR exercise, scheduled this year, has 21 questions, six more than in the last such exercise in 2010. Some of the new questions, such as the place and date of birth of parents, have triggered a political storm, with opposition parties claiming the Modi government seeks these additional details for potential exclusionary use in the NRC to be compiled at a later date.
In Bihar, the NPR is likely to begin in May, just four months before the assembly election. While respondents have the option of not answering some of the questions-in which case, the enumerator will mark them with a dash-there is speculation that blank responses may go against individuals during the NRC. “We want the Centre to revert to the old NPR format to eliminate speculation among people,” says a leader of the Janata Dal-United or JD(U).
With 16 Lok Sabha MPs, the JD(U) is the second largest constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The party had voted in favour of the CAA in Parliament last December. Thereafter, however, Nitish has signalled that his support cannot be taken for granted. He rejected the NRC on January 13-and has now gone public with his position on the NPR.
Nitish’s NPR demand came the very day he issued a warning to JD(U) vice-president Prashant Kishor and veteran Pavan K. Varma over their public criticism of the CAA. Kishor and Varma were expelled from the JD(U) the next day. The two developments should not be seen in isolation. “Prashant Kishor has been an ace campaign strategist. There is a distinct possibility that he may now team up with the opposition for the Bihar assembly poll. So we cannot leave our position on crucial issues vague and allow our opponents to exploit it,” says the JD(U) leader.
Kishor, after his expulsion, tweeted his gratitude to Nitish and extended his best wishes for retaining the chief ministerial chair. Many in the JD(U) see it as a sarcastic jibe and do not rule out Kishor mounting a challenge against the party in the assembly poll. “We are ready. Let Kishor make his intentions clear after the Delhi election,” says another JD(U) leader.
Bihar’s parties are already warming up for the state poll. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav is likely to launch his Berozgari Hatao (Remove Unemployment) Yatra whereas the Samvidhan Bachao (Save the Constitution) Yatra announced by Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Kanhaiya Kumar against the CAA is under way. Nitish has held consultations with his party members in January. The JD(U) is focusing on stepping up preparedness at the booth level.
Home minister Amit Shah has announced that Nitish will lead the NDA campaign in the Bihar assembly election. Having won 39 of the 40 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the alliance holds a psychological edge against the conglomeration of opposition parties. A senior JD(U) leader, however, told India Today that though the opposition was decimated in the general election, the assembly contest may be far from one-sided. “We are aware that efforts are being made to get Kanhaiya Kumar to join hands with Tejashwi. Unlike the Lok Sabha election, the opposition alliance may also take the left parties on board for the assembly poll. We cannot afford to be complacent,” said the leader.
Source INDIA TODAY