Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Saturday said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is likely to be implemented from January next year, as the Centre and the saffron party is keen to grant citizenship to the large refugee population in West Bengal. The BJP national general secretary accused the TMC government of not being sympathetic to the cause of the refugees.
"We are hopeful that the process of granting citizenship to refugees under the CAA will begin from January next year," he told reporters on the sidelines of the party's 'Aar Noy Anyay' (no more injustice) campaign in North 24 Parganas district. "The Centre has passed the CAA with the honest intention of granting citizenship to persecuted refugees coming to our country from neighbouring nations," he added.
Reacting to Vijayvargiya's comment, senior TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim said that the BJP is trying to fool the people of West Bengal. "What does the BJP mean by citizenship? If the Matuas are not citizens, how come they voted in assembly and parliamentary polls year after year? The BJP should stop fooling the people of West Bengal," he said.
The Matuas, originally hailing from East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), started migrating to West Bengal in the 1950s, mostly due to religious persecution. The community, with an estimated population of 30 lakh in the state, influences results in at least four Lok Sabha seats and 30-40 assembly constituencies in Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas districts.
A section of state BJP leadership is apprehensive that the delay and confusion over CAA implementation might turn refugee voters, especially the Matua community, against BJP in the 2021 assembly elections due in April-May next year. The community had voted hands down in favour of the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, party sources said.
The CAA seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi refugees who have come to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.