AGP walkout an emotional loss: Assam BJP’s key man
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)’s decision to sever ties with “natural ally” Bharatiya Janata Party is an “emotional loss” but the development will not have any bearing on the Lok Sabha elections this summer, Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday.
The 49-year-old leader, who is considered the BJP point person for the northeast where the party has made significant gains in the past three years, said he was ready to welcome the AGP if it wanted to return to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
“We will never close the doors for the AGP,” Sarma said in an interview. “Yes, it [the AGP walking out of the alliance] is an emotional setback for us because they were friends, and by and large our ideological line was the same. I am more emotionally upset, rather than electorally.”
Last week, the Assam-based party pulled out of the BJP-led government in the state over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to give citizenship rights to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The AGP has its roots in the 1985 Assam Accord, which said anyone who entered the state after March 1971 would be seen as an illegal immigrant and should be deported.
The Bill has plunged Assam into a turmoil, creating an unprecedented common ground for the AGP and traditional rival Congress. The overtures from the Congress on at least two occasions suggest possibilities of potential new political fronts in the future, HT reported on Sunday. At present, the common ground, leaders of both parties say, is limited to resisting the bill.
Sarma said Assam had changed, but the AGP leadership was still stuck in the days of the Assam agitation. “The AGP does not understand this today, but they will realise this in days to come,” Sarma said, adding that an alliance between “indigenous Assamese, tribals and those who consider India as their mother” was needed to maintain social equilibrium. Sarma admitted that certain states, such as Manipur and Meghalaya, have reservations over the bill, but the Centre had offered to incentivise the Bengali Hindu population.
HIMANTA BISWA SARMA SAYS HE IS READY TO WELCOME THE AGP IF IT WANTED TO RETURN TO THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE