GUWAHATI: Opposition Congress in Assam has made an offer to Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) to initiate a process for the formation of a non-BJP government, committing that the grand old party will extend outside support to it.
The AGP and the BPF are constituents in the state’s BJP-led three-party ruling coalition. What made the Congress to come up with the offer is the AGP’s straining of ties with the BJP over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which the Narendra Modi government wants to pass to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh besides Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Congress wants the formation of an AGP-led government with BPF and minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) as its constituents. The Congress says if the three of them come together, it will extend outside support to the formation. The four parties together have 64 MLAs as against the BJP’s 61 in the 126-member Assam House. There is also an Independent MLA.
“If an alternative government is formed, the Congress will not participate in it. However, the party will extend outside support to it for democracy to prevail,” Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora told reporters.
“We appeal to the AGP, particularly its leader and former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, and BPF leaders Hagrama Mohilary and Chandan Brahma, to take the initiative. The Congress doesn’t need any ministerial berths,” Bora asserted.
Congress MLA Abdul Khalek, who had first come up with the idea, claimed the party was in talks with some AGP leaders. He said the non-BJP formation would see the light of the day only if there was a positive response from the AGP.
The BPF has not yet reacted on the offer but the AGP has. “The corrupt Congress is a sinking boat. I am against the formation of an AGP-led coalition government which is supported by the Congress,” AGP MLA, Ramendra Narayan Kalita, said.
The development comes amidst rising anger in the state against the BJP over the Citizenship Bill. Assamese groups and organisations fear that if the Bill is passed it will destroy the locals’ ethnic identity among others.
The BPF said it would neither endorse nor oppose the Bill. However, the AGP stands opposed to it. The party has threatened to pull out its support to the government in the event of the Bill’s passage. The AGP’s opposition is on expected lines given that it was born out of the anti-foreigners’ agitation of 1980s – spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union – which led to the signing of the historic Assam Accord.
As per the Accord, the immigrants, who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, will be detected and deported. The National Register of Citizens is being updated in the state under the direct monitoring of Supreme Court based on this cut-off date. Assamese groups and organisations insist that the immigrants who came after March 24, 1971 will have to be deported.