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After Asom Gana Parishad, 4 BJP allies in North East oppose Citizenship Bill, will discuss future

TWO DAYS after the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) walked out of the alliance with the BJP in Assam over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, another BJP ally, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma Wednesday said the passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha was “unfortunate” and that he would consult party leaders about the future course of action.

And it is not just the AGP and Sangma now going public with their opposition. At least three more regional parties, in Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram, all in the BJP’s 11-party North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), have called some provisions in the Bill a threat to indigenous communities, and say they will have to discuss “future” plans for the coalition after the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha.

“We as a Cabinet and as a government expressed our concerns about it (the Bill) and passed a resolution long time back. We do not support this at all. Regarding the future course of action, there are different parties in the coalition, so we will take a call on how to move forward,” Sangma told reporters in Meghalaya.

The NPP heads the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government where the BJP is a coalition partner. The NPP has 20 seats in the 60-member Assembly, equal to the Congress. The MDA in total has 38 seats, with BJP holding two seats.

Another BJP coalition partner, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), has opposed the Bill. “We will be holding a meeting to discuss the issue of the passing of the Bill in Lok Sabha and decide on the future course of action,” said Mangal Debbarma, IPFT Assistant General Secretary.

Last year, the BJP had won 35 seats and the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) won eight of the 59 seats in Tripura. And on the day the Bill was passed, the state witnessed intense clashes between anti-Bill protests and at least four persons were injured Tuesday according to police, while protesters said at least six were hit by bullets.

Protests rocked Assam too a day after the AGP walked out of the BJP alliance. “Protests have taken place across the state against the Centre’s decision to pass the Bill. We are with the people, to work for the protection of the community,” AGP chief Atul Bora, told reporters Wednesday after resigning as a minister.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga told The Indian Express, “We are very annoyed at the passing of the Bill in the Lok Sabha. We hope it is not passed in the Rajya Sabha. If it is, then we have to carefully discuss and decide on the next course of action.”

Zoramthanga’s Mizo National Front (MNF) had swept the recently concluded state elections winning 26 seats. The party had strongly opposed the BJP in the state elections but is a founding member of the NEDA, as are the NPP and the IPFT. The BJP won one seat in Mizoram elections.

In Nagaland, where the BJP is allied with Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), the Cabinet met Monday and discussed the Bill. A press note said, “The Cabinet deliberated on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and resolved to request the Centre to re-examine and review the Bill to ensure that it is in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution of India and the existing practices of the Nagas.”

“…The Cabinet resolved that a meeting of all political parties in the State be convened to examine the issue in its entirety,” the note said. The NDPP is also a member of NEDA.

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