BJP ally to use Citizenship bill against it in NE

BJP ally to use Citizenship bill against it in NE

Mukesh Kumar Sahu, chief electoral officer Assam, in Guwahati on Monday. photo by Manash Das

The Citizenship (Amendment) bill is set to be the major weapon against the BJP in the Northeast for the Lok Sabha elections, not only for the Opposition parties but also for the saffron party's ally the National People’s Party (NPP).

The NPP led by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Monday announced that it would contest in all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the region and the citizenship bill would figure prominently in its campaign.

“The ethnic identity is the most vital issue for people in the Northeast. We fought and stood together against it with other organisations when the BJP tried to pass it in the Parliament and we will continue to do so in the future. Citizenship bill is going to be one of our major issues during the campaign,” Dilip Bora, convenor of NPP's Assam unit, said.

Bora, a retired IPS officer who recently switched from the Asom Gana Parisahd (AGP) to the NPP, said that the party would also focus on poor connectivity and strengthening federal structure of the government.

This comes on a day when a forum of citizen’s organisations opposing the bill issued a call to boycott the BJP after a meeting with various political and non-political organisations here.

“We must stand together and vote against the BJP to protect the secular character of India and our Constitution,” said social scientist Hiren Goahin while chairing the meeting.

Gohain and two others were earlier booked under sedition charge for allegedly making a statement about possible resurgence of sovereignty demand, if the protest against the citizenship bill was neglected.

They were, however, granted bail by the Gauhati High Court.

Despite the BJP being an ally of the NPP-led Meghalaya government, Sangma united 11 regional parties in the Northeast including eight partners of the BJP-floated North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) last month and stood against the bill.

The bill sought to allow non-Muslim “persecuted minorities” who had migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December 2014 to apply for Indian citizenship, after a stay of six years.

Organisations in the Northeast including the BJP’s allies took to the streets while the AGP quit the BJP-led Assam government.

Organisations representing indigenous people fear that the bill is aimed at reducing them into minorities by offering citizenship to “large illegal migrants” living in the region.

BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said that out of 14 seats in Assam, they would win at least 9 to 11 seats and 21 seats in the entire Northeast.

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