How BJP plans to defend backlash over Citizenship bill

How BJP plans to defend backlash over Citizenship bill

Ranjeet Kumar Dass, president of BJP's Assam unit addressing party workers in Guwahati on Sunday. DH photo

Pushed to the back foot over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, BJP in Assam is gearing up to flag Narendra Modi government’s move to accord Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six more ethnic communities and the recent development projects, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

The party workers will soon launch a door-to-door campaign to convince people that it is committed to its promise of protecting the indigenous identity of the Assamese people and that ‘misinformation’ was being spread by organisations agitating against the bill.

“The protests are still on despite the prime minister’s open assurance that he will not allow the bill to affect people of Assam and the Northeast. But some organisations are carrying out misinformation campaign that the bill will destroy the identity of the indigenous people. We have asked our party workers to visit every household to counter such misinformation campaign,” BJP’s state president, Ranjeet Kumar Dass said here.

“Our workers will also highlight the development works done by our government both at the Centre and at the state—be it the bridges, roads or the welfare schemes for tea garden workers,” he said.

BJP had won seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam in 2014 and the party is eyeing at least 10 seats in the next general elections.

BJP claims the Centre’s move to implement Clause VI of Assam Accord, after nearly 35 years of its signing and the bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha recently to fulfill long demand for ST status to six more ethnic communities would act as a shield to indigenous communities against the immigrants. Under the Clause VI, the Centre plans to give reservation for indigenous people in the state Assembly and other elected bodies, government jobs and educational institutions.

Many organisations representing the indigenous people in Assam are up against the bill as it seeks to allow the minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who had migrated to India due to ‘religious persecution’ till December 2014 to apply for citizenship, after a stay of six years. They fear that the same would reduce them into minorities, linguistically and politically.

The party’s plan to counter the agitation with ST status, however, is likely to backfire as the existing ST communities are agitating against the move fearing that it would affect the reservation enjoyed by them.