GUWAHATI: So it’s official now – what has been in the realm of mere speculation in the most recent past in the history of the AGP-BJP bonhomie. The AGP has moved out!
After two years and seven months of its power-sharing at Dispur, the regional party has severed its ties with the BJP, the decision coming on Monday when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the leaders of the party that the Central government would try to get the Citizenship (Amendment), Bill, 2016 passed in Parliament on Tuesday.
An AGP team, led by party president Atul Bora, had been camping in New Delhi since Sunday. They met Singh on Monday with the request that the Bill be cancelled, but that was to no avail. The team comprised Keshab Mahanta, Phani Bhushan Choudhury, Birendra Prasad Baishya, Dr Kamala Kanta Kalita and others.
After their meeting with Singh, Bora made a formal announcement before the media of his party breaking away from the BJP-led State government.
Bora said, “We fought a lot to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 cancelled. We took to the streets against the Bill. We met the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and all members of the JPC, including its chairman, against the Bill. We did all these despite being a coalition partner at Dispur. We even met the leaders of some regional and national parties and persuaded them to oppose the Bill.
We said time and again that we would fight the Bill till the end. We could persuade Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the Shiv Sena to oppose the Bill. Oddly enough, New Delhi opted to turn a deaf ear to our repeated pleas. The BJP has insulted the mandate of the people of Assam. We tried our best to make the Home Minister understand that the Bill is set to spell disaster for Assam. The Bill is set to defy the Assam Accord. Even the NRC being updated now in the State will be redundant if the Bill is passed.”
Bora said the AGP is a party with its genesis in the Assam Agitation and so it cannot back anyone disrespecting the Assam Accord. “How can we lend our support to the BJP that has no respect for the Assam Accord? Maybe today’s is our last meeting with Rajnath Singh. He let us know that the Centre will try to pass the Bill in Parliament on Tuesday. We see no reason to be with the BJP at Dispur now,” he said.
Bora informed the media that his party had been requesting the BJP leaders not to go against the sentiments of the Assamese people. “The AASU, AJYCP, KMSS and a whole lot of organizations in the State have been opposing the Bill. Even the media in Assam is against the Bill. Our alliance with the BJP in the 2016 Assembly elections was the call of the time. At that time the BJP was committed to implementing the Assam Accord. We never thought it would betray the people of Assam. The Prime Minister himself had said that all foreigners from Bangladesh staying in Assam would have to pack up after May 16, 2014. However, they have backtracked only for votes,” he said.
Lambasting Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Bora said his party is astonished at the way the Chief Minister’s thoughts have been operating. “What surprises us the most is the Chief Minister’s thought process. He is in politics from the AASU. We sent him a letter seeking an appointment for discussion on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. He, however, had no time for any such meeting. So now we’re with the people of Assam to oppose the anti-Assam Bill,” he said.
According to sources, the AGP leaders are supposed to arrive in Guwahati on Monday night. Three AGP ministers – Atul Bora, Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhushan Choudhury – may tender their resignations either on Monday night itself or Tuesday morning. Along with the ministers, all chairmen and vice-chairmen of various boards and corporations from the party are also going to quit their respective posts.
However, despite the AGP’s divorce from the coalition at Dispur, the BJP has a comfortable majority with 74 legislators – 61 of its own, 12 of the BPF and an independent. Against this, the Opposition is going to gain its strength to 52 – 25 of the Congress, 13 of the AIUDF and 14 from the AGP.
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