AGP, BJP won’t speak on Citizenship Bill during campaigning: Himanta Biswa Sarma

The AGP, which returned to the NDA fold on Wednesday, and the BJP will not speak on the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill while campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Assam, NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Friday.

The two parties had decided to resume the talks on the bill after the election, he added. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had walked out of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) remonstrating against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 brought by the Centre two months ago, returned to the grouping on Wednesday.

“During the campaign, we will not say anything about our differences (on the bill), but project our unity to the people. Both the parties would sit together after the polls to find out a solution through “consultation and consensus,” Mr. Sarma said.

The NEDA convenor was addressing a joint press conference with Assam BJP chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass and AGP president Atul Bora here. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

“The sole aim of our campaign will be to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister again for the development of Assam and the northeast. Our campaign will focus on the success of the PM and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s tenure,” Mr. Sarma said.

There will not be a separate manifesto or common minimum programme for the constituents of the ruling coalition in Assam, he added. A “common statement” approved by all the parties in the NEDA would be issued in the coming days, the BJP leader said.

Commenting on the issue, Mr. Bora said, “We have some issues of difference and it is very common between alliance partners…. We have decided to sort out those through discussion. We have joined the alliance in the greater interests of the state and country.”

He claimed that Mr. Modi had done “lots” of development works in the country, while former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “did nothing” for the region, despite being a Parliamentarian from Assam for 10 years.

“We hope to win all the 14 seats and appeal to our workers to ensure that the votes fall in the right place. Narendra Modi should be the PM for the second term for the development of Assam and the region,” Mr. Bora said.

Mr. Sarma further said the seat-sharing details between the AGP and the BJP would be formally announced on Saturday in New Delhi after a delegation of the regional party meets BJP president Amit Shah. The BPF, the third NEDA partner in Assam, had announced State Minister Pramila Rani Brahma as its only candidate for the Lok Sabha polls from the Kokrajhar seat on Tuesday.

On the prospects of the alliance in Assam, Mr. Dass said: “We had earlier said 9-10 seats will be won by the BJP and the BPF. But after the AGP coming back to us, our workers are enthused and now the alliance will win at least 12 seats.” Local, community-based parties of Mising, Rabha, Tiwa and other tribes had also extended their support to the BJP-led alliance and this would ensure a clear victory of the NEDA in Assam, he added.

In 2014, the BJP had won seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam, the Congress and the AIUDF had three MPs each and one member was an Independent. The two BJP allies, the BPF and the AGP, had no representation in the Lower House of Parliament. Regarding other northeastern states, Mr. Sarma, also the State’s Finance Minister, said: “On March 17, there will be a meeting of all the NEDA parties’ members with Amit Shah. After the meeting, the seat-sharing details for the rest of the region will be announced.”

Voting in Assam will take place in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23.


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