Union Home Minister Amit Shah will address a rally at the Janata Maidan here on Friday in support of the amended Citizenship Act, days after parts of Delhi witnessed widespread violence over the the contentious law. Shah will attend the rally after chairing a meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council (EZC) here which will be attended by four chief ministers, including Mamata Banerjee who is a bitter critic of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) as well as any nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Though Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, who will also be present in the city on Friday for the EZC meet, have backed the CAA, both have made clear that they are against NRC.
The Bihar Assembly has also passed a resolution stating that NRC is not needed in the state, making it the first NDA-ruled state to categorically say no to NRC and to seek removal of controversial clauses from the census exercise.
The Patnaik-led ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha has also sought removal of some contentious clauses from the NPR exercise.
State BJP president Samir Mohanty said the rally to be addressed by Shah was part of his party's countrywide awareness programme on CAA undertaken in January following protests by the opposition against the amended law.
Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan, Babul Supriyo and Giriraj Singh and BJP MP Rupa Ganguli have already addressed public meetings counting virtues of CAA in different places of Odisha including Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Jeypore.
Apart from organizing awareness campaigns and rallies on the amended Citizenship Act in all organisational districts of Odisha, BJP workers have congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah by sending postcard messages.
Ahead of Shah's pro-CAA rally, Mohanty on Wednesday had flagged off a fleet of campaign vehicles whose purpose is to inform people about the rally.
State BJP spokesperson Golak Mohapatra said that the Congress and some other political parties were trying to mislead people on the amended citizenship law and Friday's public meeting was aimed at making it clear that CAA is in the national interest.
However, a senior state Congress leader hit out at the BJP for organising the rally, saying that before counting the positive of CAA, Shah should first restore normalcy in Delhi where communal violence has so far claimed 34 lives.
Congress MLA Suresh Routray said at a time when the national capital was witnessing bloodshed over CAA, Shah should be in Delhi to ensure peace there instead of visiting Odisha.
"What will he (Shah) tell the people in Odisha? The Home Minister should stay in Delhi and do the needful at a time when the national capital is burning," he said.
The ruling BJD also took a swipe at the pro-CAA rally to be addressed by Shah. Party spokesperson P K Deb said such awareness exercise should have been done much before amending the citizenship law and enacting the new law.
During the EZC meeting here of Friday, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee would meet Shah for the first time after the enactment of CAA. But it is not clear whether she would have a one-on-one meeting with the home minister on the sidelines of the meet.
Banerjee, who is already in Odisha and has visited the Jagannath Temple in Puri on Wednesday said that India is known for peace and harmony.
"We want peace, not bloodshed," Banerjee said while responding to a query on the communal violence in Delhi.
Apart from attending the EZC meeting and the pro-CAA rally, Shah will also meet state BJP leaders to discuss strategies for strengthening the party in Odisha, sources said.
He is scheduled to visit the Jagannath Temple in Puri and Lord Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar on the concluding day of his Odisha visit on February 29.