The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data stating that West Bengal has the highest number of foreign convicts, majority of whom are from Bangladesh, has provided BJP with fresh ammo to raise the pitch for implementation of NRC in the state.
The BJP, which had used NRC, illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and alleged Muslim appeasement by the TMC government as its main poll planks to bag 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 parliamentary polls in West Bengal, is now planning to use the data during its campaign against the state government, after the festive season.
With 1,379 foreigners lodged in its jails, West Bengal accounts for the highest percentage -- of about 61.9 per cent -- of foreign prisoners in the country, it said.
Maharashtra, with around seven per cent of foreign convicts, and Uttar Pradesh with about 6.8 per cent, trails behind West Bengal, as per the data released earlier this month.
"The highest number of foreign convicts in India are from Bangladesh. With 1,403 Bangladeshi convicts in Indian prisons, West Bengal alone has 1,284 prisoners from that country," the data said.
The NCRB is under the Ministry of Home Affairs and is responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code and special and local laws in the country.
The BJP, which has been pitching for the National Register of Citizens to weed out "infiltrators" from West Bengal, said the NCRB data about Bangladeshi prisoners in the state's prisons is a "grim reminder" that the NRC is a must for West Bengal as the TMC has turned the state into "a safe house for infiltrators and jihadis".
"We have been saying this for the past several years.
But whenever we brought up this issue, we were termed as communal.
"The NCRB figures prove the kind of threat that continuous illegal infiltration from Bangladesh poses to our national security. This data will only help to raise the pitch for our demand for NRC," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told PTI.
Bangladesh and West Bengal share about 2,216.7 km border, a large portion of which is not fenced.
Echoing Ghosh, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is also the party's Bengal minder, said that continuous and unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh is not only posing a security threat but is also a grave danger to the Indian economy.
"West Bengal is not the only state which shares borders with Bangladesh. There are other states such as Assam and Tripura which do too. But you will never find a state government and a ruling party aiding infiltration just for the sake of vote bank politics. The TMC has mastered the art in West Bengal," he said.
The BJP has set the 2021 assembly polls in West Bengal as its target to defeat the Mamata Banerjee government and has already declared that NRC would be one of its major planks in the assembly polls.
According to state BJP sources, apart from the NCRB data on Bangladeshi convicts for 2017, the party would also use a Border Security Force data which claims to have apprehended 1,364 illegal Bangladeshi intruders at the international border so far in 2019.
A senior state BJP leader said on condition of anonymity that the publication of the final NRC list in Assam, which omitted names of over 19 lakh people, majority of them Hindus and the panic that followed, has "taken the winds out of the BJP's sails to some extent".
"So in order to counter the narrative of the TMC on NRC, we had come up with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in which we said all Hindu refugees will be accorded citizenship. Now the data of NCRB and the BSF will come in handy for us to pitch for our policies and counter the TMC's narrative," he said.
The ruling TMC felt that the BJP was trying to put the onus of the Centre's failure to protect the international borders on the West Bengal government.
"Does the TMC government or any other state government look after the international borders? It is the union government, now led by the BJP, which does so. So if a foreigner sneaks in, it is the fault of the BJP government," TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee told PTI.
"The allegation that we are aiding infiltration from Bangladesh is baseless," Chatterjee, who is also the state parliamentary affairs minister, said.
The TMC, he iterated, will never allow a "divisive and communal exercise" like NRC in West Bengal as long as it is in power.