The Asom Gana Parishad has formed a pre-poll alliance with the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. This comes two months after the regional party severed ties with the BJP in Assam over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
ThePrint asks: BJP-AGP allies again: Poll opportunism or was Citizenship Bill clash just political optics?
We are willing to put aside minor differences with AGP to ensure re-election of PM Modi
Jayanta Malla Baruah
BJP Assam spokesperson
The central leadership of both the BJP and the AGP have taken a decision to renew the alliance between the two parties. The BJP’s stand on the Citizenship Bill is absolutely clear, and has been for years now. Since the time of the Jana Sangh, we have believed that India should be a safe haven for Hindu minorities from other countries.
These are strictly ideological positions that do not change. We are not going to compromise on our support to the Citizenship Bill.
That said, we are also very clear on the AGP’s position vis-a-vis the Citizenship Bill. And the AGP is fully aware of our position as well. Knowing this, both the parties have come together for the greater good of this country. Minor differences may exist, but we are willing to put them aside in order to ensure re-election of Narendra Modi as the prime minister. In politics, we have to take decisions that will be beneficial for the country.
As far as the differences with the AGP are concerned, we are willing to discuss it with them in a way that will be helpful to both parties. Both parties must feel like they are benefitting from this alliance.
We have come together for the greater purpose of Assam’s development and governance
The pre-poll alliance between the BJP and the AGP has been finalised keeping all things in mind. The primary reason behind why our alliance broke off two months ago was the difference of opinion on the Citizenship Bill. Now that we are back in alliance, it isn’t as if our position on the bill has changed. We are still staunchly against it and refuse to budge.
Moreover, we will actively work towards the implementation of the Assam Accord as well. Our endeavour to protect the native population and fight for their rights will continue. We do not know when the Citizenship Bill will be discussed again, but we know we aren’t open to any compromise on the matter.
The BJP may have its position, but our stance is also equally firm. It isn’t as if we have no similar agenda. We have come together for the greater purpose of development and good governance of the people of Assam. We were in alliance earlier and now that we are back together, we are hopeful that this alliance will help us garner more seats in the Lok Sabha elections. We haven’t taken any call on the seat-sharing formula yet.
AGP has betrayed the people of Assam and will not be forgiven in elections
General Secretary, AIUDF
The AGP has cheated the people of Assam. Just a few months ago, they were protesting against the Citizenship Bill, and today they are forming an alliance with a party that is the biggest proponent of the bill. They have a stand completely contrary to that of the BJP’s when it comes to the Citizenship Bill. This proves that their protest was nothing but crocodile tears meant for sheer optics.
The BJP is losing its stronghold in several north Indian states, as the recent assembly elections have proven. They already lack support in south India. So, they are trying to focus on the northeast for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. They are willing to go to any extent to win votes in the northeast. They feel tying up with a local party like the AGP will help them.
The AGP, on the other hand, lacks money and resources to win elections. So, it is a convenient alliance for both parties.
But people of Assam feel betrayed by the AGP. This move will definitely backfire and cost them heavily. The Assamese people will teach them a lesson in the elections. They are smart enough to not forgive these U-turns.
We have to protect culture of native Assamese people, no matter what politicians do
Chief adviser, All Assam Students Union (AASU)
Political parties tend to think solely in numbers. For them, elections and votes are the primary concerns. It’s been 34 years since the Assam Accord was signed. As per the accord, any person who entered Assam after midnight of 24 March 1971 must be identified as a foreigner.
Several political parties have come and gone in these three decades, but none have taken any initiative to actually implement the accord. The Citizenship Bill was another attempt at negating the rights of the native Assamese. We know the character of every political party and can say with certainty that none have put in any efforts whatsoever to implement the accord or take any other step to secure the native people’s rights.
Our primary concern as of now is to protect the identity and culture of the native Assamese people. We will not stop at anything and neither will we allow any compromises in our endeavour.
Politicians changing their mind isn’t new. But that doesn’t deter our movement at all. The Citizenship Bill is an unconstitutional bill, regardless of what position politicians take. We must come together and agitate against it.
BJP had to keep regional parties with it to prevent Congress & AIUDF from winning seats
Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Senior Guwahati-based journalist
The AGP’s return to the BJP-led alliance two months after it had parted ways was bound to happen because it benefits both. The BJP knows it must keep the regional outfits with it in order to stop the Congress and AIUDF from winning more seats.
The AGP sees it as another opportunity to strengthen itself. Even if it wins one Lok Sabha seat, it will be a huge gain. The AGP is strongly opposed to the BJP’s Citizenship Bill, which will give Indian citizenship to Hindu Bengali immigrants of Bangladesh. The AGP, along with the All Assam Students’ Union and others, think the bill once passed would reduce the Assamese into a minority. But then, the AGP probably prefers to remain silent on the bill and leave it to the BJP to ask the people to choose the lesser evil of the two – Hindu migrants or Muslim migrants – and vote accordingly.
Although the AGP has been drawing flak for going back to the BJP, both parties are probably hoping that most of the Assamese and other ethnic votes would shift towards the alliance and leave the Congress a portion of the Muslim votes in addition to whatever support it still has among others.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.
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