GUWAHATI: The alliance between Assam’s ruling BJP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) hangs in the balance.
The BJP’s central leadership is likely to take a decision on the alliance in New Delhi on Tuesday in consultation with party leaders from Assam. However, the state leaders, including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, are said to be not so keen on the alignment.
“Our national leaders will take a call on the alliance. We are a national party and such a decision is taken only at the national level,” BJP spokesman Rupam Goswami said.
AGP president Atul Bora said no decision had been taken yet on the alliance. “We haven’t yet discussed the issue with BJP,” he said. He was recently in Delhi which gave rise to speculation about alliance.
Amidst the uncertainty, the AGP on Sunday had declared a list of probable candidates in 13 of the state’s 14 Parliamentary seats. Many viewed it as an attempt to mount pressure on the saffron party for alliance. Bora said the declaration of the names of probable candidates was part of the regional party’s preparation for the polls.
Alliance and the resultant seat-sharing arrangement had done wonders for both parties in the 2016 Assam elections. The BJP had grabbed 60 of the state’s 126 seats to form the government with allies AGP, which had won 15 seats, and Bodoland People’s Front.
However, two-and-a-half-year later, the BJP and the AGP had fallen apart on the issue Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which the Narendra Modi government had sought to pass in Parliament to grant Indian citizenship to immigrants belonging to six persecuted non-Muslim communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated till December 31, 2014.
For a party that was born out of the anti-immigrants’ agitation of early 1980s, the AGP could not endorse the Modi government’s move. So, it first staged a series of protests against the Bill to try and dissuade the BJP from going ahead with the Bill. As the BJP remained stuck to its gun, the AGP severed its ties with the saffron party and pulled out of the Sonowal government in January this year.
The grassroots workers of both parties are seemingly opposed to the alliance given their straining of ties over the Citizenship Bill. There is a perception that non-alliance will hurt the AGP more than the BJP.
The BJP state leadership is confident the party will do well even without alliance. The confidence stems from the party’s success in last year’s panchayat election where it had grabbed nearly 42 per cent of the votes to emerge as the single largest party.
Only time will tell whether or not there is an alliance between the two parties. But for now, the AGP can propose an alliance to old foe Congress. The Congress, possibly, will not reject it.