2005 and now: Mamata Banerjee’s u-turn on Bangladeshi immigrants

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been the Centre’s fiercest critic over the updated Assam citizen list, which leaves out names of nearly 40 lakh people and plans to crackdown on illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But 13 years ago in 2005, the Trinamool chief took an entirely opposite stand over the same issue.

Mamata Banerjee, who said the Centre’s National Registry of Citizens (NRC) move will lead to a “civil war and bloodbath”, had back then said in Lok sabha that “infiltration into Bengal has become a disaster” and Bangladesh nationals were on the voting list.

Banerjee, an opposition lawmaker then, wanted a discussion on a “very serious matter” and had come with two sets of papers on illegal immigration from Bangladesh. When denied debate by then Lok Sabha deputy speaker Charanjeet Singh Atwal, who was presiding the House, she rushed to the well and started crying, tore and threw papers at him as stunned MPs watched.

Mamata also alleged that the ruling CPI-M were benefiting from illegal Bangladeshis as they have been a vote bank for the Left party.

She also resigned from her Lok Sabha seat. The resignation, however, was rejected because, according to Atwal it was not “submitted in proper form”.

The notice given by Banerjee for an adjournment motion on the issue was disallowed by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee earlier but she insisted on raising it despite being repeatedly told by Atwal, who was in the chair, that “the notice of your motion has already been disallowed by the Speaker. I cannot do anything about it.”

Amid dramatic protest by Mamata Banerjee over the NRC, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted the incident from 2005.

Jaitley, who wrote a blog attacking the Congress and Mamata Banerjee for criticising NRC, stressed on the change in the stance on the political parties. “Can India’s sovereignty be decided by such fickle minds and fragile hands?” Mr Jaitley said in a Facebook post.

The draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) – an exercise to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh – has triggered a massive political controversy with opposition parties including Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress accusing the BJP of trying to drive out people for political reasons.

Mamata Banerjee met with top opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday over NRC and said the united opposition will stop the BJP in 2019 elections.

On Assam citizen list, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it is a draft and “no coercive action” would be taken against people whose names were excluded.