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AGP says issue raised vigorously

CABINET MEET & CITIZENSHIP BILL

GUWAHATI, June 2: Refuting the charges that the party had failed to raise the burning Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 issue during Friday’s cabinet meeting, the AGP on Saturday asserted that it did raise the issue boldly but refrained from elaborating before the media for the sake of maintaining the privacy of the cabinet deliberations.
A section of media (not The Sentinel) has made vitriolic attacks on the AGP, a partner of the BJP-led government in Assam for its alleged failure to raise the issue of granting citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis before the cabinet meeting held on Friday.

“We boldly raised the issue before the cabinet meeting to draw the attention of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and other members of the cabinet. But the BJP ministers expressed some reservation on the issue and requested us to give them time to reach at a consensus. Even the Chief Minister made similar request to us and assured that the BJP will clarify its stand soon after publication of the complete draft NRC on June 30. We were also requested by the Chief Minister to keep the cabinet’s deliberations on the issue within ourselves,” State cabinet minister and AGP president Atul Bora said.

Bora, while addressing a press conference at the AGP headquarters at Ambari on Saturday afternoon, said being a disciplined member of the cabinet he did not elaborate the Cabinet’s deliberations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill before the media on Friday. Bora on Friday had told reporters that since the Chief Minister had given the AGP ministers full assurance that the BJP would not take an anti-people stand on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill before the cabinet meeting, the AGP had decided to adopt a wait-and-watch policy.

Expressing regret that a section of media misinterpreted the AGP’s stand which resulted in misunderstanding among the people regarding the party’s stand, Bora said the issue of Hindu Bangladeshis was discussed for half an hour at the cabinet meeting and the AGP ministers (himself, Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhusan Choudhury) even threatened to quit the government in case the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed in Parliament.

Bora said even though the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was not listed as an agenda of the cabinet meeting, the issue was raised and discussed considering its importance during the meet. The issue will not, however, officially figure in the cabinet’s minute since the BJP ministers expressed reservations over the same.

On the other hand, cabinet ministers from BJP Siddhartha Bhattacharyya and Parimal Suklabaidya on Saturday said the AGP ministers did not raise the issue of Hindu Bangladeshis at the Cabinet meeting.

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Ankur Kalita