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Did Sonowal meet AGP trio before or after Cabinet meet?


GUWAHATI, June 1: Information on the hard-hitting decision of the AGP to oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at the State cabinet meeting held on Friday seems to be highly contradictory with one set of reports emanating from unofficial sources contradicting the other set of reports coming from official sources.

According to reports flowing in from unofficial sources, the three AGP ministers opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill at the cabinet meeting, leading to a hot debate between a section of BJP ministers and the AGP trio. At one time, the debate came to such a pretty pass that AGP president Atul Bora had to say that if the situation continued like that his party would have no alternative but to pull out of the government, sources claimed. When the situation was going beyond control, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had to intervene and strike the balance, sources added.

As against the statements made by State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary and Atul Bora before the media separately, the sources further said that the Chief Minister had no closed-door session with the three AGP ministers before the cabinet meet.

“The Chief Minister, however, had a closed-door meeting with the AGP trio only after the cabinet meeting, struck balance between the two parties, and then barred both the parties from making what was discussed on the Bill at the cabinet public,” the sources claimed.

Right from the very beginning the AGP was very firm in its stand against the Bill. It had opposed the Bill before the Union Home Minister and at the NEDA conclave in Guwahati in front of Amit Shah, let alone the JPC. This apart, the regional party has been carrying out a signature campaign against the Bill in the State.

However, when asked by the media after the Cabinet meeting, Atul Bora said: “We oppose the Bill. The Chief Minister called us before the cabinet meeting and assured us that he is not going to do anything against the State. We’ve a coordination committee of the three coalition partners. He has advised us to raise the issue at the coordination committee where it will be discussed thoroughly. Moreover, the Bill is a parliamentary subject that has some technicalities too. The coordination committee hasn’t held its meeting for a long time. We hope it will meet soon.”

Speaking on the same line, Patowary said: “The Chief Minister is holding talks with various organizations of the State on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. He held such a talk with leaders of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and 28 other ethnic organizations on the Bill. Time and again he’s saying that his government is not going to do anything against the interest of the State. In his meeting with the three AGP ministers before the Cabinet meeting today, he reassured them of not doing anything against the interest of the State. He asked the AGP trio to raise the issue of the Bill at the BJP-AGP-BPF coordination committee.”

Patowary further said: “The AASU and the AGP can talk on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. We do respect their opinions as they’re the ones who led the Assam Agitation. However, we’re not going to give much weightage to what the opponents of Assam Agitation say.”

Meanwhile, the AGP’s opposition to the Bill is poised to enter a new phase with the party going to start a new programme – Shankhanaad (blowing of conch shell) – from June 7 against the Bill. This campaign is to be accompanied by various musical instruments like brass cymbals. The programme is going to start from Bongaigaon.