Citizenship Bill: BJP prepared to lose the North-East in the hope of winning the North

BJP hopes to gain in the northern plains what it knows it has lost in the North-East by going ahead with the Citizenship Bill

Soroor Ahmed

Want to learn the fine art of losing friends and creating rivals. Contact the Sangh Parivar think tank.

In a matter of days the Bharatiya Janata Party lost two trusted allies in the North East––the Asom Gana Parishad and National People’s Party––for no big political gain. The AGP has already snapped its ties with the BJP and NPP is on way out from the NDA. This has happened within a month of another ally, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, an outfit in Bihar, deserting the National Democratic Alliance and becoming a part of the opposition Grand Alliance.

Besides, the saffron brigade has alienated AIADMK by hurriedly deciding to amend the Constitution to provide ten per cent reservation for the economically weaker section in the general category.

If the BJP swept the North East in the last Lok Sabha election it was largely because of the support of the regional outfits. Ideally it should have kept them in good humour. But it was not content with this ‘limited’ success and wanted to broaden its base in the region.

When Hindus in Indian states are not ready to welcome and tolerate Hindus from other states, how can they be expected to welcome Hindus, Christians and Sikhs from neighbouring countries?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill prompted the AGP to quit NDA citing that it violated the Assam Accord. The National Register for Citizens was initiated to have closure on the basis of this very Accord.

Anyone who entered Assam after March 24, 1971 would be deemed to be an infiltrator, a foreigner and would be denied Indian citizenship. This was the essence of the Assam Accord after AGP and All Assam Students’ Union spearheaded a movement in 1980 calling for the expulsion of people who had infiltrated into the state.

But the Citizenship Amendment Bill, according to the AGP, will cancel out all the efforts made in this direction as it offers citizenship to Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan nationals––barring Muslims, Jews and Bahai’s –who came to India before December, 2014.

The AGP did not suddenly dissociate itself from the NDA. It had warned the BJP in the past too and an AGP delegation camped in Delhi and called on every dignitary and union minister they could to plead that the Bill be withdrawn. But they were paid no heed.

But the BJP, which is perpetually in election-mode wanted to placate Bengali-speaking Hindus of Assam just ahead of the Lok Sabha poll. The BJP also believes that this move will be welcomed by people across the country as the Bill allows Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis from the three neighbouring countries to settle in India.

The Sangh Parivar appears to be weak in arithmetic. Just below half the population (48.38 per cent) of Assam are Assamese speaking while less than one-third (about 30 per cent) are Bengali speaking. But a sizeable section of these Bengali speaking people are Muslims who are not to going to welcome the move.

The truth is that even Hindu Bengalis of Assam are not very appreciative of this move as they are upset as many of their names do not figure in the NRC list.

If the BJP leadership expects that Bengalis of West Bengal and other Hindus of Rajasthan, or even for that matter of Gujarat, would vote for the party because it is offering citizenship to Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals the saffron party is living in a make-believe world.

What they forget is that even Hindus from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh living in Maharashtra and other Indian states are often hounded by the likes of Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, their co-religionists. When Hindus in Indian states are not ready to welcome and tolerate Hindus from other states, how can they be expected to welcome Hindus, Christians and Sikhs from neighbouring countries?

Without taking economic and other factors into considerations such fantastic offers of citizenship is not going to cut much ice.

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