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New Delhi, February 6, 2020
Remaining firm on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the National Population Register (NPR) was a general administrative exercise and would help in delivery of government services.
Replying to debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address to a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, Modi said in the Rajya Sabha the opposition was protesting against the NPR for their narrow political gains. All state governments had given their approvals through gazette notifications, but some of them were now making U-turns, he said.
After the Prime Minister's speech and before the House adopted the motion, the opposition parties staged a walkout.
Quoting former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Samajwadi leader Ram Manohar Lohia, the Prime Minister attacked the opposition, especially the Congress. He also read out part of a 1947 Congress resolution to remind that it was opposing something that it supported then.
Modi said the Congress had earlier favoured citizenship to minorities from Pakistan and emphasised the resolution passed with the aim to grant citizenship to Hindus travelling to India from Pakistan used the word non-Muslims.
He asked the Opposition to not "misguide and misinform" on the citizenship law and expressed reservations over resolutions passed by some states.
Mentioning Kerala, he said the Chief Minister was on the one hand talking about extremist elements infiltrating anti-CAA stirs and, on the other, his party was extending support to them in Delhi.
He said the wrong path taken by many opposition parties on the CAA was unfortunate.
On the Opposition charge that they were not being consulted and the government didn't believe in consensus building, Modi said the citizenship law or abrogation of Article 370 had been debated and discussed in the House before being passed.
He also reminded the Opposition how the Bill to create Telangana was rushed through Parliament during the UPA rule. "The whole country saw how doors were closed and the TV cameras were shut," he said.
In his almost 75-minute address, the Prime Minister dismissed the Opposition charges on a range of issues. As many as 45 MPs had taken part in the discussion on the motion.
Recounting his government's achievements, he said India's economic fundamentals were strong and the roadblocks in the way of the Goods and Services Tax were removed and the GST was implemented.
He said as the Gujarat Chief Minister he had flagged several issues related to the GST and resolved them when he became the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister stated that tier-II and III towns were contributing to the growth and their issues must be addressed, and mentioned about the UDAN scheme that provided air-connectivity to these towns.
Targeting Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, he said in the past 18 months several schemes, many of them first for the state, had been implemented in J&K.
Under the PM Awas Yojana, against 3,500 houses built earlier, in less than two years over 24,000 houses were built in J&K. He also mentioned other steps, like reservation to the poor, providing electricity and building roads in the past 18 months.
Speaking on the Motion on Wednesday, Azad had compared several social indices of the erstwhile J&K state and questioned the government's decision to split the state into two Union Territories (UTs).
Making light of the Congress leader's remark that the Northeast was burning, Modi said had the situation been that bad, the Opposition would have sent delegations and held press conferences.
He highlighted the government move to settle the Bru refugees's issue, saying despite being in power at the Centre and in N-E states the Congress never cared to solve them.