Ten political parties of the Northeast and the JD(U) met in Guwahati on Tuesday to announce their “unanimous opposition” to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The meeting saw the participation of key BJP allies in the region, including the National People’s Party, which leads the coalition in Meghalaya; the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, which leads the coalition in Nagaland; the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which is an ally of the BJP in Tripura; and the Mizo National Front (MNF), which is the ruling party in Mizoram.
The BJP’s allies, however, did not comment on pulling out of the NDA or the BJP-led regional North-East Democratic Alliance.
The meeting, titled “NE Region’s political parties convention on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016”, was convened by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and hosted by the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had earlier walked out of the BJP-led Assam government following disagreements over the Bill.
Sangma told the media that the meeting passed a resolution that all the parties “jointly opposed” the Bill, and a delegation would be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind soon to convey the opposition to the Bill in the Northeast.
NDA stays in the Northeast — for now
While Tuesday’s convention gave a platform to the widespread public opinion in the Northeast against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, it stopped short of announcing any major political move in case the Bill is passed in Rajya Sabha. All major parties that took part in the meet have earlier publicly announced their opposition to the Bill, and their coming together had set off speculation of a possible decision regarding their association with the BJP on this issue.
“In the unfortunate scenario that the Government of India fails to listen to the demands of people of Northeast and presses ahead with the Bill, the convention has decided to continue its opposition to the Bill. Towards this, the convention has decided to meet again to chalk out the course of action,” Sangma said.
Sangma said the meeting was “not political”, and was held to voice “sentiments of the people” of the region. He didn’t answer questions on whether the parties present, who are in the NEDA or NDA, would pull out if the Bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha.
When asked about the meeting, Assam BJP president Ranjit Dass told The Indian Express, “This will not affect the party’s relationship with the allies in the Northeast. This Bill is for whole of India, not only for the Northeast. Once we have passed it in the Lok Sabha, it is our duty to place it before the Rajya Sabha.”