As the BJP’s heightened efforts to clear the way for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill cost the party its Assam ally AGP, speculation is rife that other NDA partners in neighbouring Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are not in conformity with the saffron party over the sensitive issue either.
The saffron outfit is in power in the Northeast after entering into an alliance with regional parties, along with its own strong numbers.
The Citizenship Bill, however, is turning out to be a major thorn in the BJP’s equation with its allies in this part of the country.
The issue appears to have disturbed many of its northeast allies, which may not be good for the saffron party, which is eyeing the vital 25 Lok Sabha seats from the seven sister states in the general elections this year.
‘AGP Leaving Us Won’t Affect BJP’
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had in 2016 formed the political coalition, North-East Democratic Alliance or NEDA. The Citizenship Bill provides for according Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of the present 12 years even if they do not possess any documents.
Assam’s coalition partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had pulled out of the BJP-led government on Monday, 7 January, over the Bill.
Senior AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Mahanta had on Tuesday, 8 January, demanded dissolution of the Sarabanda Sonowal government.
But the walking out of the 14-MLAs strong AGP did not pose any immediate threat to the Sonowal ministry as it enjoys support of 74 members in the 126-members House along with the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) and an Independent MLA.
The BJP had downplayed the AGP’s exit and asserted it would have no impact on its prospects in the 2019 parliamentary election.
“In 2014, we fought alone and won seven seats. Today we have partnership with BPF. Also Rabha, Tiwa, Sonowal and other indigenous groups have allied with us. So, AGP leaving us will not affect us and we will get 11 seats,” Assam BJP president Ranjit Kumar Dass had said Tuesday night after the end of the 11-hour bandh in the state over the Citizenship Bill.
‘In Meghalaya, NPP’s Stand On Matter Was Aggressive’
In neighbouring Meghalaya, BJP’s senior ruling alliance partner, National Peoples Party (NPP), has said it would decide its future course of action after discussing the matter with party leaders.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had on Tuesday said he would discuss the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha with leaders of his NPP in all the northeastern states to decide the future course of action.
The NPP heads the government in Meghalaya and the BJP is its alliance partner. Both the parties are also part of the ruling governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.
Sangma had said the Meghalaya cabinet passed an official resolution to oppose any attempt to amend the Citizenship Bill.
We were the first government to come out with an official resolution within the Cabinet to oppose the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, he said, adding the NPP’s stand on the matter was aggressive and clear.
Nagaland Allies Yet to Take Any Decision
In Nagaland, the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which is running the government with the BJP, said it would deliberate the matter with party legislators.
The state government had in the past, however, sought review of the Bill.
NDPP president Chingwang Konyak told PTI here that the party was yet to take any decision on the matter.
Mizoram’s MNF Opposed Passage of Bill, Joined ‘Bandh’
In Mizoram, the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), which though is running the government in the state alone but is part of the NEDA, Wednesday, 9 January, said the party opposed the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill and had expressed its opinion repeatedly in public.
MNF vice president R Tlanghmingthanga told PTI that the party had made its stance on the issue “crystal clear” and expressed its opposition to the passage of the proposed legislation.
The ruling party also wholeheartedly supported the 11-hour bandh called by the North East Students Organisation (NESO) and the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) on Tuesday.
The MNF leader, however, said the party high command was yet to hold a meeting to deliberate whether to snap ties with the NEDA or the NDA on the issue.
IPFT in Tripura Would Encourage Illegal Immigration of Non-Tribal
In Tripura, BJP’s coalition partner Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) on Wednesday clarified that they were opposed to the Citizenship Bill, 2016, saying it would encourage illegal migration of non-tribals.
General Secretary of IPFT, Mangal Debbarma said the party would continue its movement for scrapping of the Bill.
We had earlier protested against the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Bill and organised many movements earlier and today also our stand is same. As the Modi government has got the Bill passed in the Lok Sabha, we will intensify our movement. We will soon decide our next course of action because we cannot allow illegal migration in our land, Debbarma told reporters.
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