AGP walk­out an emo­tional loss: As­sam BJP’s key man

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Front page - Ku­mar Ut­tam let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

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

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