HAVING walked out of the ruling BJP alliance in Assam over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Wednesday formed a nine-member committee to look into the prospects of a tie-up for the coming general elections, ruling out neither the BJP nor the Congress as options.
“The committee will finalise our election strategy, including an alliance,” Atul Bora, AGP president, told The Indian Express. AGP sources said the recommendation by the committee is expected by the first week of March.
Asked about the possibility of an alliance with the BJP or the Congress, Bora said that he would only speak after the committee’s discussions. “The committee will study the BJP’s actual position on the Citizenship Bill now, which party will work effectively for implementation of the 1985 Assam Accord, and then come to a conclusion,” AGP spokesperson Manoj Saikia said.
Earlier, AGP leader and former Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta had said there was a “moral problem” aligning with the Congress.
Saying that the party has “never allied” with the Congress, Ramendra Kalita, senior AGP leader said, “The Congress was in power at the Centre for so long but they did not do enough for Assam Accord implementation. People of Assam may not accept our coming together with the Congress… Whichever party ensures the protection of the indigenous people, we are with them.”
The AGP has its roots in the Assam Movement, the six-year-long anti-foreigner movement that led to the signing of the historic Assam Accord by the leaders of the agitation with the Rajiv Gandhi government.
In the 2016 elections to the 126-member Assam Assembly, the BJP and AGP had together won 75 seats, with ally Bodoland People’s Front picking up another 12. The BJP and AGP had come together with the agenda of overthrowing the Congress government.
In the 2014 general elections, where the AGP fought alone, it drew a blank in the state’s 14 LS seats. However, it got around 4 per cent of the vote share. The BJP had won seven seats, with a vote share of around 37%. The AGP and BJP had also fought the 2009 elections together, getting one and four seats respectively.
Addressing a rally in Assam’s Lakhimpur on Sunday, BJP national president Amit Shah had said that the citizenship Bill, which has lapsed since it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha, would be brought again. The AGP is steadfastly opposed to the Bill.
BJP leaders in Assam denied any backchannel talks with the AGP, though adding that “the central leadership will take the final call”. BJP state vice-president Taufiqure Rahman said, “The state unit stands by its decision to not talk with the AGP as of now. We are quite comfortable contesting the elections alone.”
Congress Legislature Party leader in Assam Debabrata Saikia said, “For the AGP to keep the Bill away, there are two ways — contest alone, or join an anti-BJP alliance… We would like to have them as an ally.”