Assam burns over Modi’s Citizenship Bill but BJP unaffected

There are no official figures to suggest the number of immigrants, irrespective of faith, in Assam. Some organisations claim it is anything between 20 lakh and 50 lakh.

Published: 25th January 2019 06:52 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th January 2019 07:09 PM   |  A+A-

Members of different organisations hold placards against a Joint Committee hearing on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill at the Assam Administrative Staff College, Khanapara, in Guwahati. (Photo: File / PTI)

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: There is seething anger seen against the ruling BJP in Assam over the NDA government’s move to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in Parliament but much to the party’s satisfaction that anger has not touched it.

The state has been on the boil for the past year over the Centre’s move to grant Indian citizenship to six persecuted non-Muslim communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated till December 31, 2014. However, ironically, the anger has least affected BJP. This was evident from the party’s landslide victories in the state’s panchayat and North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) elections held recently.

Seventy organisations, led by peasants’ body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samitee, besides a section of intellectuals, students, activists, film personalities and others are on the warpath expressing their resentment against the controversial Citizenship Bill. They fear if the immigrants are granted Indian citizenship, it will threaten the existence of indigenous communities in Assam.

There are no official figures to suggest the number of immigrants, irrespective of faith, in Assam. Some organisations claim it is anything between 20 lakh and 50 lakh. A little over 40 lakh people, including locals, were left out of the complete draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) after they had failed to submit relevant documents to NRC authorities. However, a good number of them are likely to make it to the list when the final draft NRC is published later this year.

The BJP had gone to panchayat elections amidst the din against Citizenship Bill. The polls were an opportunity for the party to gauge the mood of people vis-à-vis Citizenship Bill. However, contrary to public perception, the party swept the polls, winning over 42 per cent of the seats. The party’s state leadership is convinced the locals at the grassroots level were not opposed to the Bill. Subsequently, the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Centre and passed.

The second and immediate test for BJP was the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) elections. It grabbed 19 of the 28 seats. In the 2013 elections, BJP had failed to win even a single seat although 18 of the elected members from across parties defected to the saffron party in due course.

After the results were declared, minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted: “Assam reposes its faith in the leadership of Sri @narendramodi and Sri @AmitShah. The results of North Cachar Autonomous Hills Council amply prove this”. 

On Friday, he agreed that people at large were not bothered about the Citizenship Bill, pointing out that had it not been the case, BJP would not have won the two elections.

Despite BJP’s sterling performance, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which was an ally of BJP but severed the ties and then pulled out of the state government recently, and Congress tried to put up a brave face.

“They (BJP) are in power and as such, they should have won 80 per cent of the seats,” senior Congress spokesman Apurba Bhattacharya told this correspondent.

He alleged that there were a lot of anomalies in the panchayat elections which adversely affected the opposition parties.

“They won the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council elections as they are in power in the state as well as at the Centre. It has been a trend in Assam that the ruling party wins in council elections as the councils heavily depend on the ruling party for funds. However, BJP’s twin victories will not impact our Lok Sabha poll prospects,” Bhattacharya added.

The AGP echoed him

“Usually, the elected members of a council defect to the party which is in power in the state. It happened in the previous NCHAC election. BJP did not have a single member but the party eventually managed to run it (following the defections of some members to it),” AGP leader and former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said. He cited the same reason for BJP winning the panchayat elections.

Total number of panchayat seats – 26,748

BJP 11,325 
Congress 8,918
AGP 1,949
AIUDF 1,317
Others 3239

Total number of NCHAC seats – 28 

BJP 19
Congress 2
Independent 6

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