BJP Firm On Citizenship Bill: Himanta Asserts Post Alliance With AGP

Himanta speaking with media persons in Guwahati
Himanta speaking with media persons in Guwahati

Guwahati, March 13, 2019

Despite the strong resistance against it, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on March 13th, 2019 that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains “firm” on its stance on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and that a “lot of thought” has gone into it.

Two months after pulling out over the much-debated Citizenship Bill, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and BJP are back as allies in poll-bound Assam.

Speaking with media persons here, he said, “Even after forming the alliance with the AGP, the BJP is firm on passing the Bill. The AGP is against the Bill. However, in the coming days, for the smooth functioning of the government, all the decisions on the Bill will be taken only after consensus and consultation between the two parties.”

He added, “Our common agenda is to defeat the Congress and ensure the election of Narendra Modi as the prime minister once again. Post the alliance, I am sure that the BJP will win 12 out of 14 seats in Assam.”

Sarma had said not passing the Citizenship Bill in Rajya Sabha is a defeat for Assam. He also claimed without it 17 assembly seats in the state will go to Bangladeshi Muslims. He had earlier said the BJP and its allies will win between 19 and 21 seats out of the Northeast’s 25 Lok Sabha seats.

On February 13th, 2019, in a major setback for the ruling BJP, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was not tabled in the Upper House of the Parliament. As the Rajya Sabha failed to pass the Bill, it would have to be cleared by the next Lok Sabha again. The BJP government at the Centre has been pitching for the early passage of the legislation.

After pulling out of alliance on January 7th, 2019, Assam Agriculture Minister Atul Bora, Assam Water Resources Minister Keshav Mahanta, Assam Food and Civil Supplies Minister Phani Bhusan Choudhury tendered their resignations on January 9th, 2019.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant nationality to people belonging to minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of their residence in India. Massive protests broke out across the Northeast region after the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.