Will Be His Biggest Rally Ever, Boasts BJP as Modi Heads to Assam Amid Anger Over Citizenship Bill
A local Congress leader said the ongoing protests have compelled a cornered BJP to put up a huge show by ‘forcing’ people to the rally.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a rally.
Guwahati: The Assam BJP, believed to be losing its grip due to its stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, is leaving no stone unturned to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Kamrup’s Changsari area, about 45 km from the capital city, on Saturday a massive one.
The rally, titled ‘Bijay Sankalp Divas’, is expecting a gathering of over 3 lakh from across the state and Modi is likely to sound the poll bugle for the Lok Sabha election in the Brahmaputra valley where the anti-bill movement has been intense.
The Prime Minister is first slated to fly to Arunachal Pradesh where he is going to attend multiple functions, including the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the new greenfield airport at Holongi and retrofitted airport at Tezu.
He is then likely to take part in a ‘bhumi-pujan’ function of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to kick off the construction work for the institute at Changsari and lay the foundation stone for the third bridge over the Brahmaputra connecting north Guwahati and the city, before addressing the rally here.
Later, he is expected to fly to Tripura.
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “Preparations are almost complete. There will be a massive gathering. It is a very important day for the people of the state.”
BJP’s Dhekiajuli MLA Ashok Singhal said, “At least 3 lakh people are expected to assemble for the function, which may turn out to be the biggest ever public gathering for Modi, till date.”
People from Hajo, west and east Guwahati, Nalbari, Raha, Jagiroad, Morigaon, Sipajhar, Barkhetri, Kamalpur, Palashbari, Mangoldoi and several other places of the state are likely to take part in the event.
“People in large numbers are going to reach the venue via road and railways. Thousands will come on two-wheelers and many on foot too,” said a BJP leader associated with the preparations of the rally.
A local Congress leader, Debobrata Saikia, said the ongoing protests have put the BJP on a back foot and hence the saffron brigade is trying to put up a huge show by ‘forcing’ people to the rally.
He said, “We have come to know the BJP has ‘unofficially’ instructed hundreds of ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) and other government employees to attend the rally. The party is misusing the government machinery.”
A spokesperson of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which recently snapped ties with the ruling party over the bill, which its says will make the Assam Accord ‘redundant’, agreed.
AGP functionary Manoj Saikia said, “The saffron party has turned a government function into a poll campaign rally. It’s a shame.”
The regional party has remained firm on its stand to not allow immigrants into Assam’s territory, irrespective of their religion.
After the AGP came out of the alliance, several other members of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a platform of non-Congress parties constituted by the BJP after coming to power in Assam, have threatened to break ties if the Centre pushes for the bill.
Last month, at least 10 regional political parties, including AGP, Meghalaya’s Nationalist People’s Party (NPP) and Mizo National Front (MNF) along with many other political leaders from the states of Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland have joined hands to fight against the citizenship bill.
“It’s nothing but politics of appeasement. The BJP’s state unit is trying to appease the Prime Minister by arranging a large gathering and the government is trying to woo the public through its schemes and projects. We want to tell Modi that no matter how strong a gathering the BJP manages to put up, the people of the state are not in favour of the government. The party is only trying to distract and mislead people from the core issue,” said Dhaijjya Konwar of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti.
The influential All Assam Student’s Union (AASU) has also warned the chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal-led state government and Centre not to ignore public sentiments.
“Blinded by power, the chief minister has forgotten his past. Sonowal, who once advocated the implementation of Assam Accord, is now pushing for the bill. He must realise that the people who have voted him to power can bring him down too,” said AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.
AASU and Sonowal are engaged in a war of words after the former recently met Congress president Rahul Gandhi urging him to ensure his party opposes the bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Sonowal said, “The Congress is a party that opposed the Assam Agitation. The AASU approaching the president of such a party is sad.”
The AASU leader said, “If he (Sonowal) respects the Assam Agitation then he should act accordingly. The bill itself is a dishonour to the agitation and he must prove his stand.”
While the Assam Accord, an outcome of six years of the Assam Agitation, identifies anyone who entered the state before March 25, 1971, as a citizen of India, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who had entered India before December 31, 2014.
Assam has been on the boil since the PM, during a public rally in Silchar in Barak Valley, announced that granting citizenship to the religiously persecuted ‘Hindu’ brothers of Bangladesh is the party’s priority.
Subsequently, the Lok Sabha passed the controversial bill triggering non-stop protests in the state by political parties, students groups and civil society organisations who termed the bill anti-secular and part of the saffron camp’s promotion of the ‘Hindutva’ ideology.
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