MUMBAI: The Vajpayee government was never questioned for amending the Citizenship Act in 2003, but suspicion about the current regime's intentions led to nationwide protests, former minister Yashwant Sinha said here on Monday.
Dismissing the government's argument that amendment to the Citizenship Act was part of the BJP's poll promises, Sinha asked if a manifesto can "supercede" the Constitution.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is against the Constitution as it discriminates on the ground of religion, he told PTI on the sidelines of an event at St Xavier's College here.
"They (Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah) are completely contradicting what they said earlier," the former BJP leader said.
Both were "scared" because of the nationwide protests, which led them to go back on promise to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) across the country, Sinha said.
All political parties had supported the amendment to citizenship laws carried out during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2003, he said.
"Do you remember any protests (happening) in 2003? I don't remember any. No hackles were raised. We talked about a national register of Indian citizens being prepared, though it was left vague because the rules were to be framed later," he said.
"Why has CAA caused so much disruption? Because people go by the intention of the government. In Vajpayee's time, they didn't suspect the intention of the government. In the present situation, they suspect the intention behind this move," the former Union minister said.
He also argued that with Aadhar in place, there was no need for a National Population Register (NPR), as biometric details of people are already with the government.
The difficulties during the NRC exercise in Assam tells us what kind of mayhem it will cause if carried out nationwide, Sinha said.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician also attacked Modi, comparing him to medieval ruler Muhammad bin Tughluq, for pushing ahead with the Rajpath revamp plan at a time when the economy is in the middle of a slowdown.
He blamed the government for focusing only on supply-side measures to reverse the slowdown and not pushing up demand, which he said was "dead".
Instead of corporate tax cuts which would lead to a revenue loss of Rs 1.46 lakh crore, same quantum of relief should have been given to the farm sector and infrastructure building, the former finance minister said.
Sinha claimed he had warned of the impending troubles 27 months ago in an article, but the government only published a counter penned by his son and then Union minister Jayant Sinha, instead of taking corrective measures.
He also alleged that the government was "fiddling" with data and manipulating it to present a rosy picture, and expressed disappointment at the Budget, which he said was "undone" frequently by the government (by subsequent tinkering).
On stock markets going up despite the slowdown, Sinha said he suspected that the markets were being "played up" by vested interests.
He also reiterated that not joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership illustrated "cowardice".