The Congress on Saturday staked ownership of Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise while accusing the BJP of "befooling" the people by politicising it, and asserted that it would stand with every Indian citizen who has been left out in the draft list.
"The NRC is a baby of the Congress party," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said after the issue was discussed at length on Saturday in the meeting of Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's highest decision-making body.
At the meeting, it was said that the NRC was a consequence of the Assam Accord signed by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, to which the party is committed.
The Congress also accused the BJP of politicising the issue for electoral gains and to deflect public attention from government's "failures" including bank scams.
The party cited figures provided by the government in Parliament claiming that while Modi government in last four years deported only 1,822 foreign nations, the Congress-led UPA government had deported 82,728 foreigners (Bangladeshis) between 2005 and 2013.
Surjewala said the NRC process was initiated by the party and after preparing an elaborate framework, it put in place modalities, identifying and affixing processes and building a consensus among the stakeholders. He said the previous Congress governments in Assam and at the Centre had initiated the NRC process in 2005 to identify the foreigners, who had illegally entered India.
Surjewala said that the Congress government in 2009 headed by Manmohan Singh sanctioned Rs 489 crore and proceeded to appoint 25,000 enumerators for the NRC process.
It was the Congress Government of Assam, headed by Tarun Gogoi, he said, which completed 80 percent of NRC process by May 2016, and the exercise is being monitored by the Supreme Court since August 2014.
"The Congress party will ensure that no Indian citizens are deprived of his legitimate right. The Congress stands committed to help and assist every Indian Citizen in this endeavor," he said.
Surjewala said the Congress reiterates and reaffirms its commitment to the 'Assam Accord' as a principal framework and supports the NRC process.
Every Indian citizen must be given full opportunity to establish their credentials and prove their citizenship in "a just, equitable and humane manner, without any fear or favour", the party said.
"The CWC noted with grave concern the deliberate and diabolic agenda of the BJP to play politics to use NRC as a divisive and emotional tool for misleading the people. This is being done to deflect nation's attention from the colossal failures, mega scams like Rafale, bank frauds, and others as also a betrayal of people by the Modi Government on various promises," he said.
Surjewala said the CWC called upon Congress leaders and workers, both in Assam and in the rest of the country, to "expose the acts of omission and commission being committed by Modi Government and not allow the Government to escape accountability".
The meeting, chaired by party president Rahul Gandhi, was attended by top party leaders including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Aza, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel and Ashok Gehlot. However, former party president Sonia Gandhi was unable to attend it.
"We are also aware that there are multiple anomalies in the final draft NRC, leaving out 40 lakh people comprising of indigenous Assamese people, Hindu Bengalis, Nepalis, Gorkhas, tea tribes, religious minorities, Indian citizens from other states domiciled in Assam," he told reporters.
To a question on BJP Amit Shah making it a poll issue in Rajasthan, he said "fake jumlas (rhetoric), empty steam and a divisive mindset' is the DNA of Shah" and asked him to stop "lying" on deportation of foreigners
"Amit Shah should now apologise to the nation for manufacturing lies and misleading the country purely for political vote garnering in a sinister fashion," he said.
Responding to another question, he accused the BJP and the Modi Government of "duplicity, deception and double speak" and dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to clarify their stance on Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016.
"On one side, PM and BJP President are shedding crocodile tears on NRC and claiming deportation of foreigners but on the other side, Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 seeks to give citizenship to foreigners undoing the entire process of NRC," he said.
Surjewala said instead of befooling people, Modi, Shah and Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal must answer whether they support the NRC process or whether they support Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, saying both are directly in conflict with each other and NRC Process will fail once citizenship is given to everyone as per the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
"PM Modi, Amit Shah and Sonowal cannot fool all the people all the time. Time has come for them to answer to people," he said.
The Congress had invited Assam PCC chief Ripun Bora, CLP leader Debabrata Saikia and other Congress MPs from Assam to speak on NRC issue. Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi also spoke on the issue.