BJP, AGP back together after 2-month divorce

BJP, AGP back together after 2-month divorce

A little over two months after quitting the BJP-led Assam government over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Tuesday decided to restore the alliance and fight Lok Sabha elections together in Assam. Picture courtesy Twitter

The BJP on Wednesday said that it had sealed alliance and electoral understanding with major regional parties in the Northeast for the Lok Sabha elections, including Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had quit the Assam government in January.

AGP, which quit the alliance as a protest against NDA’s Citizenship (Amendment) bill, decided to restore the alliance, three of its ministers withdrew resignations and resumed their office on Wednesday. 

BJP’s in-charge of Northeast, Ram Madhav said, “sustained negotiations” helped the saffron party seal alliance and electoral understanding with the parties, which have the “potential” to win at least 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the region.

“We have decided to fight the Lok Sabha elections together with AGP and Bodoland People’s Front in Assam and ensure that the Congress is defeated in all 14 seats. The BJP, NPP (Meghalaya), NDPP (Nagaland), IPFT (Tripura), SKM (Sikkim) will fight together in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with the mission of defeating the Congress at the hustings. While the Opposition is still talking about Mahagatbandhan, we already have ours in place in the Northeast and the rest of the country,” Madhav tweeted. 

AGP had quit the BJP-led Assam government on January 7, a day before the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. The regional party, which was the culmination of the anti-foreigners movement (1979-1985) had also joined the agitation against the bill. The bill, however, was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha, mainly due to Congress’ opposition. 

Sources said the alliance was restored following rounds of discussion to iron out differences over the bill.

Madhav did not disclose the seat sharing arrangement with AGP but according to sources BJP is willing to give three seats to AGP (Dhubri, Barpeta and Kaliabor), having large Muslim voters and where BJP has never won.

While Dhubri and Barpeta are strongholds of Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF, Kaliabor is a Congress bastion, where former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav won in 2014.

AGP’s decision could invite flak from indigenous people as BJP chief Amit Shah recently announced that they would bring the bill again after BJP is elected at the Centre for the second term. AGP at present has no MP but was an ally of Sarbananda Sonowal government till January 7 with 14 MLAs.

Ripun Bora, president of Congress’ state unit said resumption of the BJP-AGP alliance would benefit the opposition party saying the voters, who are against the citizenship bill would leave AGP and go with Congress in the Lok Sabha polls.

In 2014, BJP had won 7 seats, Congress and Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF bagged three each, while an Independent candidate had won one seat.

Elections to 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam would be conducted in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23.