No end to alliance with BJP, but fight against Citizenship Bill to continue: AGP chief

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Gogoi lampoons Atul Bora for remaining in alliance after Himanta humiliation

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Nov 26: A day after Assam finance minister and BJP heavyweight Himanta Biswa Sarma castigated its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the AGP Monday said it was not ending the alliance but would continue opposing the controversial Bill.

The Bill, which envisages granting citizenship to minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who entered India without valid documents in order to escape persecution, has been a bone of contention between the two parties with the BJP pushing for it while the AGP opposing it.

Sarma, who is also the convener of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) — a platform of the BJP and its allies in the Northeast — said it was because of the AGP leaders, who had signed the Assam Accord, that 1971 was pegged as the cut-off year for detection and deportation of illegal migrants from the state instead of 1951 as in the rest of the country.

“It was because of the Assam Accord that at least 1 crore illegal migrants in the state have become Indian citizens, which resulted in demographic changes in the state. After that, the AGP has lost its moral right to oppose the citizen Bill,” Sarma had said.

He said that in 1979 the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the then Assam governor LP Singh had offered the Assam agitation leaders to make 1971 the cut-off year for detection and deportation of foreigners but they rejected it because of which 900 people became martyrs. “But in 1985 they accepted 1971 as the cut-off year. If they had accepted the same proposal in 1979, so many people would not have died,” Sarma said.

He also took strong exception to a section of AGP leaders and MLAs attacking the BJP while campaigning for the panchayat polls.

Sarma said recently Naharkatia AGP MLA Naren Sonowal had hinted at a tacit understanding between the AGP and the Congress for the panchayat polls. “We are concerned about this development,” he said.

“We had requested the AGP for a friendly contest in the panchayat polls with an aim to defeat the Congress and the AIUDF, who are our common enemy. We may have differences on some issues but it should not affect our alliance. I hope the AGP leadership will condemn Naren and take action against him,” Sarma said.

“We are not going to walk out of the alliance with the BJP. Rather, we keep opposing the bill while remaining in power,” AGP president and state agriculture minister Atul Bora said after a crucial meeting of the regional party here Monday.

“We have made our stand clear. We are not going to accept the Constitutional Amendment Bill at any cost. We are a regional political party and our politics is restricted to the geographical area of Assam. We are going to follow the directions given by the people of Assam,” Bora said.

The AGP leadership met on Monday and decided to write to BJP national president Amit Shah urging him to make clear the saffron party’s stand on the alliance.

However, AGP’s breaking of alliance with the BJP is not going to affect the government. BJP, which has 61 MLAs, will continue to be the majority party numerically with other partner BPF following it with 13 seats.

“If the AGP has a minimum self-respect, they should walk out of the alliance immediately,” former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said on Monday.

“I never saw a leader like Atul Bora. He should come out from the alliance within a minute,” Gogoi told reporters here.

AIUDF chief Badaruddin Ajmal also urged the AGP to quit the alliance. “How long the AGP leaders can tolerate the insults? BJP leaders are publicly condemning the AGP. BJP leaders dare the AGP to walk out of the alliance if they have the courage. Is this an alliance?” asked Ajmal.

“We will come out of the alliance, if the bill is passed in the Parliament,” the AGP leader said.

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