HYDERABAD: As the demand from the Muslim community is growing for a stay on the National Population Register (NPR), Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao appears to be in a dilemma over taking a stand on the NPR and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
With the elections to the urban local bodies scheduled for later this month, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is playing its cards carefully with Rao waiting for an appropriate time to declare his stand. The participation of thousands of people in the 'Million March' held in Hyderabad on January 4 to demand revocation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a halt to the NPR and withdrawal of the proposed NRC and a series of protest programmes planned by the United Muslim Action Committee (UMAC) this month have apparently put pressure on TRS to take a clear stand.
The UMAC, headed by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), an ally of TRS, has planned three major protest programmes in Hyderabad this month. The umbrella organization of various Muslim socio-religious groups has already organized public meetings in Hyderabad and other towns in Telangana. The UMAC leaders have been demanding that KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, halt the NPR as done by the Kerala government. The Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Joint Action Committee, which organized the 'Million March', had even invited KCR to lead the march. They had urged him to take a cue from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and lead the protest. However, there was no response from the TRS chief.
A delegation of UMAC leaders led by AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi had called on KCR with the demand to stay the NPR, scheduled to be undertaken from April. Their contention was that the NPR is the first step of the NRC as already stated by the government in Parliament and made clear in the annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs. They thanked the TRS for voting against the CAA in Parliament and explained to KCR how the NRC could create problems for the people, especially Muslims. The delegation said since the CAA, NPR and NRC were all inter-linked, the state government should not implement the NPR.
After the meeting Owaisi had told the media that KCR assured the delegation that his party would soon announce its stand. According to the MP, the TRS chief voiced concern over the Hindu-Muslim divide sought to be created and even suggested that the UMAC involve the TRS, Congress and other parties in its campaign against the CAA. Owaisi claimed that KCR even indicated that he will soon call a meeting of like-minded parties to bring them together on a common platform on the CAA and NRC.
However, KCR is said to be taking a cautious approach in view of the January 22 elections to 120 municipalities and 10 corporations. Political observers say KCR did not immediately take a stand as he believes that if the BJP uses the same to seek votes in the municipal elections, this may boomerang on him. In its best-ever poll performance in Telangana, the BJP had won four Lok Sabha seats, wresting three of them from the TRS. The BJP is expected to give a tough fight in the urban local bodies under these Lok Sabha constituencies. As the BJP is believed to have some support among the urban voters, KCR does not want to take a chance by announcing his stand before the municipal polls, analysts say.
However, the TRS is coming under attack from a section of Muslims for the delay in announcing its stand. Some of the organizers of the 'Million March' found fault with KCR for delaying a decision and cautioned him that the ambiguity could cost the TRS dearly in the urban local body elections.
Political analyst Telakapalli Ravi believes the TRS opposed the CAA in Parliament because there is a sizeable Muslim population in Telangana. He, however, feels that KCR will not go for a 'head-on collision' with Modi on any issue. "KCR never encouraged any active protest movement on any issue. Even for Telangana he was more for lobbying," Ravi told IANS explaining KCR's silence. Ravi believes that KCR will act as per the Centre's directions. "No political rebellion is expected from him. If it happens it will be a great wonder." Before the Lok Sabha elections, KCR had tried to form a Federal Front, a grouping of non-BJP and non-Congress parties. He was then seen as a potential national leader, who was expected to play a crucial role in the next government.
Some sections see the ongoing row over the CAA and the NRC as an opportunity for KCR to revive his efforts to cobble up a national alliance. He gave a hint to some Muslim leaders that he may call a meeting of all chief ministers opposed to the NRC. However, Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan has taken the lead by writing to 11 non-BJP chief ministers, urging them to emulate the Kerala Assembly which passed a resolution demanding that the Centre scrap the CAA. West Bengal Chief MInister Mamata Banerjee has also spoken about bringing together all non-BJP chief ministers for a united fight against the CAA and the NRC. (IANS)