Guwahati, March 12, 2019
A day after the Election Commission of India announced the dates of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that his party will continue to oppose the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and will not bring the Bill if it comes to power at the Centre.
It may be mentioned that in a major setback for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was not tabled in the Upper House of the Parliament on February 13th, 2019. The BJP government at the Centre has been pitching for the early passage of the legislation. The Bill is set to lapse on June 3rd, 2019 when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends.
A delegation of six communities from Assam met the party president in New Delhi on March 11th, 2019. He assured them that their demand for grant of scheduled tribe (ST) status will be taken up if the party comes to power. “Congress is committed to protecting the unique identity of the people of Assam,” he told the delegation.
It may be mentioned that while addressing a public rally in Guwahati, Assam on February 26th, 2019, Gandhi had said that the Congress stopped passage of the Bill at the Rajya Sabha.
“The people of the Northeast must remember that Congress stood with the people of the Northeast in their times of need. Congress is committed to protecting the language, customs, traditions of the people of the Northeast,” he said while addressing a public rally at the Khanapara Veterinary College Playground in Guwahati.
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 by the Lok Sabha on January 8th, 2019.
Defeat of Assam
Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on February 13th, 2019 said not passing the Citizenship (Amendment) 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.
The Minister, who is also the convenor of North East Democratic Alliance, reiterated his government’s stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and said that the state can be saved from becoming a ‘Kashmir’ only with the implementation of the much-debated Bill. Sarma said his party will fight the elections with this resolution.
While addressing a youth convention at Lakhimpur in Assam on February 17th, 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah said that if the controversial Citizenship Bill is not implemented, it will adversely impact the people of Assam.
“If Citizen Amendment Bill isn’t implemented, it will adversely impact the people of Assam. Misinformation is being spread about the Bill. It’s not only for Northeast alone but for all refugees across the country. The way demography is changing in Assam, without the Citizenship Bill, the people of the state will be in danger,” said Shah.
The Lok Sabha elections in Assam will be held in three phases on April 11th, 18th and 23rd, 2019, the Election Commission announced on March 10th, 2019, setting the stage for a high-stakes battle between the state’s ruling BJP and the Congress.
A total of 21,760,604 voters will exercise their franchise in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Assam. 706,489 young voters – 40,47,15 males and 301,774 females – in the age group of 18 to 19 years in Assam will exercise their franchise for the first time in the Lok Sabha polls. Out of 21,760,604 voters, 111,327,82 are males and 106,278,22 are females.
756,284, 68,364,96 and 74,078,24 voters in Phase I, Phase II and III respectively will cast their votes in 28,143 polling stations. A total of 1913 polling stations have been marked as ‘critical’ and 3663 as ‘Highly sensitive’. The votes will be counted on May 23rd, 2019.