BJP all set to push Citizenship Bill again after another stellar show in NE

Updated 5:49 PM, 24 May, 2019
BJP insiders in Assam are gung-ho that the promise of CAB helped consolidate the Bengali Hindu vote behind the saffron party.

A day after BJP’s stellar performance, party’s chief strategist from the Northeast and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is riding high on the latest electoral success in the region. The BJP bagged 14 of the 25 Parliamentary constituencies in the Northeast.

Replying to Amit Shah on Twitter, Sarma thanked the BJP national chief and described his [Sarma’s] three-year journey in the BJP as rewarding. Both Sarma and the BJP are now confident of going ahead with the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) again.

According to Sarma, the huge mandate in Assam (9 of 14 seats) and West Bengal (18 of 42 seats) is an indication that the opposition to CAB is inconsequential. Instead, he said, it has helped the BJP better its performance across the Northeast. “Despite all propoganda, the mandate we have got makes it clear that the opposition to the CAB is tenuous. By promising CAB, we have gained in both West Bengal and Assam,” Himanta told a TV channel. He said the BJP was committed to provide refuge and citizenship to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

CAB chorus

BJP insiders in Assam are gung-ho that the promise of CAB helped consolidate the Bengali Hindu vote behind the BJP. One of the biggest wins for the BJP from Assam is in the Bengali-dominated Silchar constituency. Here, Rajdeep Roy beat Congress’ Sushmita Dev by a margin of 81,596 votes. Dev, the president of All India Mahila Congress, had won the seat in 2014 after defeating BJP veteran Kabindra Purkayastha by more than 1.2 lakh votes.

The BJP, in its manifesto, had clearly stated its commitment to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill once voted back to power. Despite widespread protests across the region, the party was clearly encouraged to take such a stand following its performance in the Panchayat elections in Assam which showed that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill had little impact on BJP’s performance.

It remains to be seen what alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad has to say on the issue this time. In January, the AGP had severed ties with the BJP over the bill, only to return to the alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The regional party, however, failed to win any of the three seats it contested.

Protests over CAB rocked the entire region earlier this year with leaders from BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) too joining the chorus. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma led the protests and said the bill in its current form was not acceptable to his party. The bill had lapsed after it failed to clear the Rajya Sabha hurdle in the Budget session of Parliament, the last before the general elections.

However, with another massive victory, the BJP is unlikely to face a similar opposition to the bill by its regional allies.

Here’s how the party fared in the region:

Assam

The BJP won 9 of the 14 seats. While the Congress won three seats, the AIUDF and an independent won one seat each. The BJP’s alliance partners – AGP and the Bodo People’s Front – drew a blank.

The prestigious Gauhati seat was won by BJP’s Queen Ojha with a massive margin of over 3 lakh votes against Congress’ Bobbeeta Sharma. The BJP also managed to win in the Autonomous District (Diphu), Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Karimganj, Lakhimpur, Mangaldoi, Tezpur and Silchar constituencies.

The Congress won three constituencies – former CM Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav in Kaliabor, Abdul Khaleque in Barpeta and Pradyut Bordoloi in Nagaon. AIUDF chief and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal retained Dhubri while independent candidate Naba Kumar Sarania bagged the Kokrajhar seat for the second consecutive term.

Meghalaya

While Congress’s Vincent Pala retained the Shillong seat, Tura went back to the National People’s Party with late MP PA Sangma’s daughter and Meghalaya CM Conrad K Sangma’s sister Agatha Sangma emerging victorious. The seat was lying vacant following the resignation of Conrad as Tura MP after having won the South Tura bye-election, last year. Tura was represented by their late father PA Sangma, who was also the founder leader of the NPP, for nine times.

Mizoram

The lone Lok Sabha seat went to C Lalrosanga of Mizo National Front. A former director general of Doordarshan, Lalrosanga defeated his nearest Independent rival Lalnghinglova Hmar by 8,307 votes. The MNF, a constituent of the BJP-led NDA, also won the Assembly by-election in the state.

Manipur

In Manipur, BJP’s Rajkumar Ranjan Singh won the Inner Manipur constituency, while the Outer Manipur seat was bagged by its coalition partner Naga Peoples Front’s Lorho S Pfoze. Both the seats were earlier held by the Congress.

Nagaland

The lone seat of Nagaland went to Tokheho Yepthomi of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), an ally of the BJP.

Arunachal Pradesh

The BJP won both the Lok Sabha seats with minster of state for home Kiren Rijiju emerging victorious for the second term from Arunachal West constituency and state BJP president Tapir Gao bagging Arunachal East.

In the Assembly elections, the BJP comfortably crossed the 31-seat mark to claim simple majority in the 60-member House. The party won 39 seats and was leading in two more at the time of filing this report. This is for first time that the BJP will form a government in Arunachal Pradesh with the support of its own MLAs.

Sikkim

Indra Hang Subba of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) won the lone seat in the state. The SKM also won the Assembly elections in the state by defeating the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) led by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling by two seats. While the SKM won 17 out of the 32 Assembly constituencies, the SDF was restricted to 15 seats.

Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were held simultaneously in the states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh on April 11.

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