GUWAHATI: His party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is a partner of Assam’s BJP-led ruling alliance, but former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta’s persistent attack on Sarbananda Sonowal’s government in Assam has virtually made him an opposition leader.
Ever since the alliance came to power in May, Mahanta has been scoring a self-goal almost every fortnight. He has attacked the state and the Centre on issues ranging from price rise to the Centre’s latest move to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim “persecuted” immigrants of Bangladesh. But the two-time former CM does not agree that he is behaving like the leader of an opposition party.
“It won’t be right to say that I am acting like an opposition leader. I will oppose any decision that will harm the interests of Assam and its people. After 15 years of Congress rule, the people got an alternative in BJP-AGP-BPF (Bodoland People’s Front) coalition. They have high expectations and the alliance government will have to live up to that,” Mahanta said.
He said the BJP-led NDA government’s move to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants will be in violation of the historic Assam Accord of 1985, which the Rajiv Gandhi Central government had signed with the All Assam Students’ Union at the end of a six-year anti-foreigners’ agitation that claimed many lives.
As per the accord, immigrants who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, will be detected and deported. Mahanta said the BJP should respect the accord in letter and spirit as committed.
“Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had promised it would drive out illegal Bangladeshis if it comes to power. It’s an irony that the party in power now wants to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants,” the student leader-turned-politician said.
In July, the Centre introduced a Bill to amend certain provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The objective of the Bill, referred to the joint select committee of Parliament, is to enable the non-Muslim immigrants who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents, or those whose valid documents expired in recent years, to acquire Indian citizenship by the process of naturalisation. Under the Bill, such persons shall not be treated as illegal immigrants.