The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM counts cost of foreigner flushout

Calcutta, Jan. 10: The CPM appears to be ranging itself against the Centre’s decision to identify illegal immigrants and deport them to where they belong.

According to the party, the Centre is trying to extract political mileage by implementing the decision to push out foreigners who have overstayed and issue multi-purpose identity cards in 13 states, which go to polls this year, five of them in the next two months.

The decision on issuing the i-cards was taken at a national conference of state chief secretaries and directors-general of police on January 7, where deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani did not mince words to say foreigners overstaying in India should be “thrown out”.

The CPM has called a rally on the Brigade Parade Grounds on on Sunday to protest the Centre’s policies, which, its senior leaders feel, are an attempt by the BJP to enhance its nationalist image before the general elections.

An exercise to identify the foreigners will begin soon in the 13 states, including Bengal and Tripura — both CPM bastions. The panchayat polls in Bengal are scheduled for May and the Assembly elections in Tripura are expected in the next two months.

“It will be difficult for any state government to ignore the Centre’s plan to deport overstaying foreigners in the interest of the unity and sovereignty of the country. All the states have agreed in principle to implement the Centre’s decision because they are constitutionally bound to work in the interest of the country’s security. But the real reason for such a move is apparent. The BJP wants to play the nationalist card with an eye on the elections,” said a top CPM leader.

Intelligence reports have indicated that several thousand Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals are living in Bengal, particularly in Murshidabad, Nadia, Malda and Cooch Behar, even after the expiry of their visa terms.

“According to the Centre’s decision, the state governments will have to identify such persons and send them back,” said an intelligence official.

Developments in Delhi have put the CPM in a spot on how to carry out a high-pitched campaign against the BJP and, at the same time, work on the Centre’s decision. With the rural polls round the corner, the CPM will have to walk the tightrope between implementing the decision and not annoying its electorate, mostly in the border districts.

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