With AGP pulling out of the BJP-led NDA last week over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the Congress senses an opportunity.
New Delhi: The Congress in Assam has expressed its “willingness” to join hands with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) after it quit its alliance with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but the AGP says “it isn’t interested at the moment”.
Speaking to ThePrint, former Assam chief minister and Congress leader Tarun Gogoi and AGP president Atul Bora seemed to be on different wavelengths for now.
The state of politics in Assam was thrown wide open last week after the AGP pulled out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), opposing the Centre’s move to push for the vexed Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Sensing an opportunity to make a tactical move against the BJP, the Congress, which has been the dominant party in the state, has said it would welcome any talks with the AGP, but the latter does not seem sure yet.
What the two sides say
The Congress, which was ousted from power by the BJP in the 2016 assembly elections, wants to get its grip back on the state to halt the latter’s march.
So a rainbow alliance is not being ruled out.
“Our doors are open for them (AGP). If they are willing to talk, we are willing to look at an alliance. We are not ruling it out,” Gogoi told ThePrint.
However, the AGP isn’t convinced.
“We are not at all thinking of or interested in an alliance with anybody else at the moment. We are not in talks with anyone, and don’t want to go in that direction,” Bora told ThePrint.
The Assam legislative assembly currently has 61 MLAs from the BJP, 25 from Congress and 14 from AGP, besides others.
Assam has Lok Sabha 14 seats and the BJP, with its steady rise in the state, is hoping to make significant gains. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP won seven seats while Congress won three.
The AGP was forced to snap ties with the BJP over the Citizenship Amendment Bill due to its own politics and the foundation on which it was formed.
The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha in the Winter Session, seeks to make illegal migrants — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — eligible for citizenship in India.
The AGP and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) built their politics on the six-year Assam agitation, demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants, which ended in 1985 with the signing of the Assam Accord.
The process of identification through updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is currently on in Assam.
The accord echoed the sentiment of the ethnic Assamese that has been opposed to all “outsiders”, irrespective of religion. The AGP’s demand has been to identify and deport all illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, and it feels the bill would violate the clauses of the Assam Accord.
The AGP and Congress have had a bitter political past, with a defined rivalry. While the AGP has stood for the more hardline anti-outsider position, the Congress has been the more moderate face in the state.
AGP sources say to reconcile their politics is an “onerous task”.
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