Asom Gana Parishad bids the BJP Goodbye over Citizenship Bill

Protests against Citizenship Bill in Assam (Source: Twitter)

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a pre-poll ally of the BJP, bade the BJP goodbye in Assam over its stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, just a few months ahead of the general elections 2019.

“We have made our best efforts to convince the BJP leadership about the negative impact of the bill and the stand of the people of Assam. But the BJP has decided to go ahead with the bill leaving us with no option but to quit the alliance,” NDTV quoted AGP president Atul Bora as saying after his meeting with Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The bill is likely to be debated in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and leader of the AGP was against the bill proposed by the BJP that grants Hindu illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries citizenship of India. The AGP is against illegal immigrants regardless of religion.

“Our alliance with the BJP is a pre-poll alliance, so the BJP should have the morality to face the verdict of the people,” the TV channel quoted as Mahanta saying.

BJP and AGP had formed an alliance before the assembly elections and got 61 and 14 seats respectively out of 126. Along with the Bodo People’s Front’s 12, the BJP-led alliance’s tally went up to 87, well above the half-way mark. Therefore, the AGP’s exit will make no difference to the ruling alliance’s majority. However, it will create a bad impression in coming elections.

“Assam had voted for AGP and BJP combine. However, the BJP failed to keep the promises of the alliance partner. Being a regional party, we have to respect the wishes and sentiments of the people of Assam,” Bora added.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant nationality to people belonging to minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

The opposition parties allege that the bill links religion to citizenship and want it to be “religion and country neutral”. “Delink religion from citizenship issue. This is against the spirit of our civilisation, culture and of our Constitution. Citizenship can’t be linked with state, religion, caste, creed and be country specific. It should be universal,” said an opposition leader.

Protesters observed ”Black Day” today, waved black flags and burnt replicas of the bill. Certain members of a group even stripped themselves in Assam’s Tinsukia. Similar protests were witnessed in front of Parliament Complex in Delhi.

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