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BJP NE allies not in conformity over Citizenship Bill

 GUWAHATI/SHILLONG, Jan 9 - As the BJP’s heightened efforts to clear the way for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill cost the party its Assam ally AGP, speculations are rife that other NDA partners in neighbouring Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are also not in conformity with the saffron party over the sensitive issue.

The saffron outfit is in power in the North East after entering into alliance with regional parties along with its own strong numbers.

The Citizenship Bill, however, is turning out to be a major thaw in the BJP’s equation with its allies in this part of the country.

The issue appears to have disturbed many of its North East allies, which may not be good for the saffron party, which is eyeing the vital 25 Lok Sabha seats from the seven sister states in the general elections this year.

The BJP had in 2016 formed the political coalition – North-East Democratic Alliance or NEDA. The Citizenship Bill provides for according Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of the present 12 years even if they do not possess any document.

Assam’s coalition partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had pulled out of the BJP-led government on Monday over the Bill.

Senior AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had on Tuesday demanded dissolution of the Sarbananda Sonowal government.

Although, the walking out of the 14-MLAs of AGP did not pose any immediate threat to the Sonowal ministry as it enjoys support of 74 members in the 126-member House along with the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) and an Independent MLA.

The BJP had downplayed the AGP’s exit and asserted it would have no impact on its prospects in the 2019 parliamentary election.

In neighbouring Meghalaya, BJP’s senior ruling alliance partner, National Peoples Party (NPP), has said it would decide its future course of action after discussing the matter with party leaders.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had on Tuesday said he would discuss the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha with leaders of his NPP in all the North Eastern states to decide the future course of action.

The NPP heads the government in Meghalaya and the BJP is its alliance partner. Both the parties are also part of the ruling governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.

Sangma had said the Meghalaya cabinet passed an official resolution to oppose any attempt to amend the Citizenship Bill.

In Nagaland, the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which is running the government with the BJP, said it would deliberate the matter with party legislators.

The state government had in the past, however, sought review of the Bill.

NDPP president Chingwang Konyak told PTI here that the party was yet to take any decision on the matter.

In Mizoram, the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), which though is running the government in the state alone but is part of the NEDA, on Wednesday said the party opposed the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill and had expressed its opinion repeatedly in public.

MNF vice president R Tlanghmingthanga told PTI that the party had made its stance on the issue “crystal clear” and expressed its opposition to the passage of the proposed legislation.

The ruling party also wholeheartedly supported the 11-hour bandh called by the North East Students Organisation (NESO) and the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) on Tuesday.

In Tripura, BJP’s coalition partner Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) on Wednesday clarified that they were opposed to the Citizenship Bill, 2016, saying it would encourage illegal migration of non-tribals.

General Secretary of IPFT, Mangal Debbarma said the party would continue its movement for scrapping of the Bill. – PTI

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