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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Leaders question AGP-BJP renewed alliance ahead of Lok Sabha election

Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, one of the founders of the AGP who has been on the margins after other leaders took over, said it will be “difficult” for the AGP-BJP alliance to work on the ground.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 15, 2019 11:25 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times
The comments have come days after the AGP rejoined the alliance with the BJP following a falling out on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The comments have come days after the AGP rejoined the alliance with the BJP following a falling out on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.(AFP)
         

Leaders of the Asom Gana Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party have raised questions about the renewed alliance between the two parties and the way it will play out on the ground in the Lok Sabha election.

The comments have come days after the AGP rejoined the alliance with the BJP following a falling out on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The AGP had walked out of the alliance in January, a day before the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. The AGP, born out of the Assam Movement against illegal foreigners which culminated in the Assam Accord, had said the proposed amendment violated the 1985 pact.

Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, one of the founders of the AGP who has been on the margins after other leaders took over, said it will be “difficult” for the AGP-BJP alliance to work on the ground.

“There are lots of members of the state executive who want to resign,” Mahanta claimed, adding it will hurt the credibility of the party.

“The decision of the executive committee was not to go with the BJP. By this understanding, the BJP will be benefitting and AGP will stand to lose. The AGP is a secular political party. The BJP only thinks of Hindus. This friendship and alliance will create confusion that they are also secular,” the former chief minister said.

“I do not think that AGP vote will transfer to BJP or if the BJP votes will come to AGP,” he said adding he will not campaign in the polls. “I was not in touch [with other AGP leader] at the time of decision making,” Mahanta said.

The AGP’s president Atul Bora, however, said “the decision had his consent” while commenting on Mahanta’s claims about the alliance.

Phani Bhusan Choudhury, one of the three AGP ministers in the state who resumed work on Wednesday, accepted there is anger among some his party’s cadres.

“It may be so but it will be sorted out in the coming days,” he said explaining how the BJP and the AGP leaders will be addressing the workers jointly to address their concerns.

Choudhury said his party was in touch with senior BJP leader Ram Madhav and held discussions with convener of North East Democratic Alliance Himanta Biswa Sarma.

“We do not stand to lose. In June, two Rajya Sabha seats will be vacant and we will get one of them,” he said.

“The BJP will maintain its stand and we will maintain our stand on the issue. Support for Bill will be part of their manifesto and opposition to it will be part of ours,” Choudhury said.

He also said that the party was likely to contest from three Lok Sabha seats and leaders will be travelling to Delhi on March 15 to meet BJP president Amit Shah before an announcement is made the next day.

The AGP did not win any seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and secured just 3.9% of the votes.

Sarma, BJP’s Assam unit’s president Ranjit Dass and other leaders visited the AGP office on Thursday to “build trust and confidence among our workers”.

“This is a confidence building exercise to send a message all across that AGP, BJP and BPF (Bodoland People’s Front) is one entity and sole aim is to elect Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the second time...” Sarma said adding the AGP leaders will visit the BJP headquarters on Friday.

On differences over citizenship bill, Sarma said discussions with the AGP have taken place as both parties continue to stick on their stand. “Whatever has happened in the past will not happen in future. Decisions will be taken with consensus and consultations,” he said.

Sarma had said on Wednesday, while addressing reporters along with AGP president Bora, there will be some “asuvidha” or inconvenience for the alliance on the ground.

He said the BJP “remains firm” on the issue of the citizenship bill and that both the parties can resolve the issue through “consultation and consensus.”

Some leaders of the state unit of the BJP were also opposed to the alliance, questioning its effectiveness.

“I do not think the alliance will be of any help,” a senior Assam government minister of the BJP, who did not want to be named, said. “We cannot be taking the Hindu Bengalis voters for granted,” he said.

It is this section of the voters who are spread across the Brahmaputra valley and concentrated in Barak Valley in the state who are in support of the citizenship bill.

Another top leader of the BJP in the state said the AGP’s coming back in alliance suggests that a deal has been worked out on the citizenship bill and it will be pushed in the future with a few amendments.

Congress leader and former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi called the BJP-AGP alliance full of contradictions and said the national party was nervous.

“They (BJP) know they might lose seats elsewhere in the country so they don’t want to lose any seat here ... I don’t think they will succeed here… This alliance is like an illicit relationship,” he said.

“The alliance will not impact us. There will be some of their supporters who will come to us after this betrayal. Where will they go otherwise?” he said adding the citizenship bill will be one of the primary election issues of the Congress.

Asked if the party was open to an alliance with All India United Democratic Front, Gogoi accused its chief Badruddin Ajmal of helping the BJP.

“His aim is to eat away our votes… Ajmal is part of the UPA but not an ally in Assam. The BJP and AIUDF are both communal parties. If you oppose Hindu communalism, then you cannot support Muslim communalism,” Gogoi said.

First Published: Mar 15, 2019 11:25 IST

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