A day after challenging the BJP to have “UN-monitored referendum on the new Citizenship law”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her statement was “misinterpreted” and she only meant an “opinion poll”.
The BJP demanded an apology from the Trinamool Congress chief for her statement. Union minister Smriti Irani described Banerjee’s remark as “an insult to the Parliament”.
“Who is the UN body to monitor the referendum? This is an insult to the 130 crore people of the country and their mandate,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman questioned Banerjee’s faith in institutions of India. “We never wanted a 3rd party or international fora’s interference in our affairs. On a completely domestic matter she has chosen to ask for UN. Does she have no faith in institutions of India?”, asked the FM.
“I did not say referendum. I said gana vote. I meant an opinion poll overseen by experts like the Human Rights Commission. I have full faith on my country and its people. I want an opinion poll on CAA and NRC”, Banerjee said at a press conference in Kolkata.
Attacking the BJP-ruled government on the citizenship law which she said was discriminatory, the Bengal chief minister had suggested that “an impartial organisation like United Nations or Human Rights Commission form a committee to see how many people are in favour or against”.
“If BJP has guts, it should go for a UN-monitored referendum on the amended Citizenship Act and NRC. If the BJP loses this mass vote, then it should step down from the government,” she had said.
A referendum is an exercise in which people belonging to a country or an area are asked to give their opinion on or decide an important political or social question. It is used by local citizens to determine territorial ownership and leadership choices.
The citizenship law has been described as “unconstituional” by opposition parties and Human Rights activists who claim that it excludes Muslims from being a part of the law that provides citizenship to refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The Trinamool chief has been leading protests against the law and the National Register of Citizens since Monday across Kolkata.
“CAA is about inclusion and not exclusion. They are talking the language of Pakistan. There are some elements who are causing confusion. We are trying to reach out to people with the right approach,” Javadekar said.