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The Shah assertion of a Congress-free NE

NEDA CONCLAVE

BJP’s national president hits out at Congress for briefcase politics

STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, May 20: BJP national president Amit Shah on Sunday accused the erstwhile Congress chief ministers of making the Northeast notorious for corruption, while on the other hand asserting that the people of the region will get a “Congress- free” Northeast after Mizoram’s election by the end of this year.

Shah, while addressing the third conclave of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra here on Sunday morning, alleged that former Congress chief ministers of the NE States were involved in corruption and had amassed huge wealth both within and outside the region.

“Earlier, during the Congress’s regime, there was briefcase politics (money in briefcase) in the Northeast. But the present BJP regime has converted briefcase politics into development politics. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been successful in changing the country’s outlook towards the region, and the Northeast will play a big role in the country’s development in the days to come,” Shah said.

The BJP president, who attended the NEDA meeting to set the roadmap for achieving its target for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by winning 21 out of 25 parliamentary seats in the region, asserted that after the Mizoram election, the Northeast will be Congress-free. “You will find eight chief ministers sitting on dais at NEDA’s next meeting,” he said.

The NEDA, a brainchild of Shah, is a conglomerate of non-Congress political parties in the Northeast, and its mission is to rid the region of the Congress. Since its formation in 2016 following BJP’s historic victory in Assam, the saffron party and its NEDA allies went on to capture power in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura. Mizoram, the last Congress-ruled State in the Northeast, will go to election by the year-end.

BJP heads the governments in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura, while it is part of the coalition governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya. Out of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the region, including Sikkim, BJP has eight MPs, while three are from parties which are part of NEDA. Two MPs of NEDA – Neiphiu Rio and Conrad Sangma – have become chief ministers of Nagaland and Meghalaya respectively.

Even though Shah’s visit came amidst protests and strikes across the State against the Centre’s move to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the BJP president did not utter a single word on the proposed legislation. AGP president Atul Bora, who is also a cabinet minister in the BJP-led government in Assam, however, articulated his party’s voice against the Bill during the NEDA’s conclave before Shah.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the Northeast has got the Centre’s attention for the first time after the country’s independence soon after the BJP assumed power in Delhi.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said the present BJP regime at the Centre has given a big boost to improve communication between the Northeast and the rest of the country. He said development of six airports under the UDAN scheme is going on in full swing in his State.

While Manipur CM N. Biren Singh said the NEDA will fight tirelessly to assume power in Mizoram, Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb termed the NEDA as the North East Development Agency.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma hoped that the BJP regime at the Centre will give a fillip to development in his State.
NEDA convener and Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while terming the third NEDA conclave as a historic one as it was attended by six ruling chief ministers of NE States, said NEDA headquarters will be set up in Guwahati.

On other hand, Shah’s visit was preceded by protests by peasants’ body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samitee (KMSS) against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi and several of its members were arrested and whisked away in buses by the police as they were staging a protest holding black flags near the venue of the NEDA conclave.