Addressing a huge BJP rally in Delhi on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Opposition is indulging in misinformation and falsehood campaigns over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Targeting the Congress, he said the Opposition was trying to divide people after being defeated twice by the people in elections.

Opposition leaders, however, hit back saying that Modi was the one misleading the nation. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that Modi had publicly contradicted what Home Minister Amit Shah had said on a nationwide National Registry of Citizens (NRC).

In his speech, Modi insisted that the CAA had nothing in it against Muslims. On the NRC, too, he said falsehood is being spread. Modi said the NRC was meant for Assam and his government had taken no decisions yet on it. He said the Congress and “Urban Naxals” propagate that Muslims will be sent to detention centres. “It’s absolutely false, it’s aimed at dividing the people in the country,” he said.

Modi said the CAA and NRC have nothing to do with Indian Muslims. “No Indian Muslims will be sent to any detention centres,” he said. The CAA is not for any new migrants, the Prime Minister insisted and said the Act was for minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who face religious persecution.

He said some Dalit leaders, too, have fallen for the misinformation campaign. The country has finally implemented the commitment to the minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The Opposition does not want to differentiate between persecuted minorities and intruders, he said.

The Prime Minister said even Mahatma Gandhi had supported Indian citizenship for minorities in Pakistan. He said he was doing what Manmohan Singh had demanded in the Rajya Sabha in 2003. Modi said Congress leaders such as former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had also demanded considerate treatment for minorities from the neighbourhood. 

Opposition responds

Responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge that the Opposition is misleading people in CAA and NRC, the Congress said the Opposition has not brought up this issue out of a vacuum. 

Congress leader and spokesman Anand Sharma told reporters that Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha is in the public domain. “That has to be then duly clarified. It is not the opposition that has created an environment of fear, insecurity and uncertainty in the country and it is primarily the Government that is responsible for that,” Sharma said. He maintained that the CAA is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. 

“If the students have come out, they feel for the country, it’s their future. The country’s economy is totally collapsing. They (BJP) brought India, which was a very fast growing economy almost to ruination. Factories have shut down; we are losing jobs, in millions, in crores. Is the Prime Minister not supposed to talk about it?” Sharma said.

Banerjee hits back

In his speech, Modi also cited old statements of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat and said they had changed their stance and were spreading misinformation. 

Banerjee responded by tweeting: “Whatever I said is there in public forum, whatever you said is there for people to judge. With #PM contradicting #HomeMinister publicly on Nationwide NRC, who is dividing fundamental idea of India? People will definitely decide who is right & who is wrong.”

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Modi’s “election campaign” speech was full of untruths, half-truths and misleading statements. 

“Whether it be the NRC, CAA or detention camps, the facts are to the contrary,” he said. 

“There is criminal neglect of people’s misery. Unemployment is at its highest, price rise is killing — onions out of reach, farm distress is leading to suicides and there is a recession. But the Prime Minister doesn’t utter a word on this. Only attempts to divide people, but they see through it,” he added.

PTI reports:  Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot responded sharply to the Prime Minister by accusing him of misleading the country. “Earlier it was Amit Shah in Parliament and today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is misleading the country by taking my name. What do they want to say? Was it wrong to write to then home minister P Chidambaram for making facilities available to those who had come to the border areas of Rajasthan from Pakistan after facing persecution,” Gehlot asked in a tweet in Hindi.

Gehlot led a massive march in Jaipur against the amended citizenship law and demanded that the centre repeal the act, saying it was against the constitution and an attempt to divide people in the name of religion. 

Jaipur Police Commissioner Anand Srivastava said nearly 3 lakh people attended the march, which took place peacefully. 

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav criticised the BJP, alleging that the new citizenship law had been brought in to “divert attention” from the “virtually destroyed” economy and rising unemployment. 

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said that people were made to stand in line to withdraw cash during the demonetisation exercise and would now have to queue up in the same way for their rights due to the National Register of Citizens.