BJP allies against Citizenship bill in NE

BJP allies against Citizenship bill in NE

NPP chief and Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma, during a campaign rally in Tura Lok Sabha constituency, where his sister Agatha Sangma is contesting. S. Khan

Three allies of BJP in the Northeast resolved to fight against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday. This, even as the BJP flagged it in its manifesto released on Monday.

Elections to 13 of the 24 Lok Sabha seats in seven states of the Northeast will be held on Thursday. The elections to the 60-member Assembly in Arunachal Pradesh will also be held on Thursday.

Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally of BJP in Assam, released its manifesto on Tuesday, in which it maintained its stand against the bill. The AGP had quit the alliance in January to oppose the bill but its decision later to persist with the alliance left many angry and surprised.

AGP is contesting in three seats, BJP in 10 and the BPF, another ally in one. 

Chief of Nationalist People's Party (NPP) and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said that his party was firmly against the bill, even as it decided to remain a partner of the NDA and North East Democratic Alliance, floated by BJP.

"They are firm, so are we. We will keep fighting against it. We may be part of the NDA but we are a different party and we have a different ideology," Sangma said. Conrad had led the regional parties in opposing the bill when BJP tried to introduce it in the Rajya Sabha in January.

The NPP is contesting in 11 seats, including seven in Assam.

Mizoram chief minister and leader of Mizo National Front (MNF), Zoramthanga also resolved to fight the bill, saying it would quit NDA if the BJP goes ahead with it after formation of its government.

The regional parties had stood against the bill but their decision to stay in the alliance with the BJP has raised several questions ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

"These parties are no longer committed about their regional ideology. They are after power and will do anything to remain in power," Raktim Ranjan Das, a former student leader said.

Organisations representing indigenous communities are against the bill as it seeks to offer citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had migrated due to religious persecution, till December 2014. They fear that such a move would make the indigenous people a minority and destroy their ethnic identity, culture and language.

Faced with their ire, Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju assured them that BJP would go ahead with the bill only after ensuring necessary safeguards to indigenous people in the Northeast.