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Asom Gana Parishad walks out of NDA over Citizenship Bill

AGP’s departure is unlikely to weaken the NDA government in the state since the BJP alone has 60 seats in the 126-member legislative assembly.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), one of the oldest allies in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), severed its ties with the saffron party over the Citizenship Bill.

According to reports, AGP chief Atul Bora met Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Monday. He said that his talks with Singh gave him the impression that the government will pass the Bill on Tuesday in Parliament.

“We tried to convince the BJP leadership about stand of the people of Assam on the Bill. However, the BJP has completely failed to understand the sentiments of the people of Assam. Now there is no reason that we should be in alliance with the BJP,” Bora told reporters.

Senior AGP leader and former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta had in Guwahati earlier on Monday said that the party had taken a decision to walk out of the government over the contentious issue but had not said when it will do so.

The party has 14 seats in the 126-member house. It has three ministers in the government led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

AGP’s departure is unlikely to weaken the NDA government in the state since the BJP alone has 60 seats. The remaining ally – Bodoland People’s Front – has 12 seats in its kitty.

The AGP had been threatening that it will walk out of the alliance if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 is passed stating that it contradicts the Assam Accord.

In a letter to BJP president Amit Shah, Bora had said that the AGP is “fully committed to the implementation of the provisions of the Assam Accord” and can never extend its support to the “obnoxious” Bill.

“We are to bring to your notice that if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is passed in Parliament, the provisions of Assam Accord and the ongoing preparation of the National Register of Citizens will be totally frustrated and the Assamese language, culture, and demography will be changed,” the letter read adding that if the Bill is passed AGP will leave the alliance.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 by making Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to become eligible for Indian citizenship.

AGP and some other parties in Assam oppose the Bill on the ground that it will allow influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants – both Hindus and Muslims – into the state.