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Asom Gana Parishad comes back to NDA in Assam, forms alliance with BJP for Lok Sabha elections

AGP had left NDA in January this year opposing the citizenship amendment bill

Ending a divorce that lasted just two months, Asom Gana Parishad in Assam has returned to the fold of NDA. On 7th January, the BJP ally in Assam government had decided to break away from the alliance opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill that the union government was looking to pass in the last session of the parliament. The party had taken the decision after the union cabinet had approved the bill, which was designed to give citizenship to religious minorities, i.e. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Several organisations in Assam had opposed the bill, saying this will give citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis in the state.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, but the government could not table it in Rajya Sabha where it does not have a majority. Thus, the bill is set to lapse as a new Lok Sabha will be formed after the general elections starting from 11th April. After the bill was not passed, there were speculations that AGP may reconsider its decision. But that was punctured by speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other central leaders of the party including Amit Shah saying that BJP is committed to the bill, and they will bring it back if they come to power.

State leadership of BJP was also not very keen on allying with AGP, but BJP’s central leadership and a section of AGP wanted the alliance for the general elections. As the dates of elections came closer, the efforts to rebuild the alliance had gained momentum, and several meetings were held between both the parties. After a series of such meetings, on 12th March BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav announced that BJP and AGP have decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections together to defeat the Congress party.

Ram Madhav made the announcement in Guwahati today in the presence of AGP president Atul Bora.

This means the NDA will have 3 allies in Assam, with Bodoland People’s Front set to contest from Kokrajhar constituency. Although a seat-sharing arrangement with AGP has not been announced yet, it is speculated that the party will get three seats, Barpeta, Kaliabor and Dhubri, while BJP will keep the rest 10 seats. Lok Sabha elections in Assam will take place in three phases, on 11th April (5 seats), 18th April (5 seats) and 23rd April (4 seats).

Finance minister Himanta Biswa Sharma was positive about AGP returning from the beginning. He had said that the party had taken an emotional decision, and they will rethink the decision about leaving NDA later after evaluating the political situation. With today’s decision, his prediction has come true.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections BJP and BPF were allies, while AGP contested the election separately. AGP didn’t win any seat, and BPF had also managed a surprise defeat to an independent candidate from Non-Bodo forum. BJP had won 7 seats, while Congress and AIUDF had won 3 each. BJP, AGP and BPF contested the 2016 assembly elections together, and had won a comfortable majority, resulting in the first ever BJP government in the state.

Update: As a result of AGP re-joining NDA, the three AGP ministers in the state government, who had earlier resigned took back their resignation letters on 13th March. Atul Bora, Keshab Mahanta and Phanibhushan Choudhury have resumed their duties in their respective ministries. It may be noted that although they have submitted their resignation to the CM in January, CM Sonowal had not forwarded the same to the governor, anticipating that AGP will come back. Therefore the AGP ministers were able to withdraw their resignations.

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