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Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma Softens Stance on Citizenship Bill, Ready to Find Middle Ground

The Meghalaya chief minister exhorts people to unitedly work for their voices to be heard in New Delhi, saying he had mixed experiences on how political leaders from the region were often treated in the corridors of power.

Karishma Hasnat | CNN-News18

Updated:March 7, 2019, 4:03 PM IST
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Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma Softens Stance on Citizenship Bill, Ready to Find Middle Ground
File photo of Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma. (PTI)
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Guwahati: National People’s Party (NPP) president and Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma on Wednesday appeared to soften his stance on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the Centre’s commitment to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

So far, Sangma’s approach over the issue has been lauded by various sections, who is the first chief minister from the northeast whose cabinet decided not to support the bill and united 10 regional political parties against the contentious legislation.

“We have been very clear that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in its current form is not acceptable. But if a situation arises where we are to discuss the bill, we will consider from all angles and take a decision only when all stakeholders are on board. It will not be correct for me to ask for removal of clauses, because it’s an issue where the entire northeast has to come together,” said Sangma.

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.

“I am an optimistic person, but it’s not something I can say on behalf of the government or the stakeholders, it is a very complicated issue. The northeast cannot be a target and if there’s a way to find a solution, we can discuss it. If we are not satisfied, we will not accept it,” added Sangma.

While launching the NPP’s Assam unit in Guwahati on Wednesday, Sangma said the party had earlier decided to contest from all 25 seats in the northeast for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, but a final decision would be taken after analysing the prospects in various constituencies.

The 41-year-old chief minister called upon people to unitedly work for their voices to be heard in New Delhi, saying he has had mixed experiences on how political leaders from the region were often treated in the corridors of power.

“It’s a general trend happening over the years — when it comes to the political situation in New Delhi, numbers speak. If any MP from the northeast has to meet a senior leader in Delhi, he or she would hardly get a minute or two to discuss anything, papers would be put aside in a corner. But if 5-10 MPs go together, they will be offered tea, and problems would then be sorted out instantly. Directions would be issued over just one phone call. So, politics is all about numbers,” said Sangma.

Speaking about the government’s ambitious ‘Act East’ policy that seeks to strengthen India’s ties with south-east Asia and east Asian neighbours, Sangma said it will be successful only when people of the northeast join hands and work together rather than wait for the Centre.

“We talk about ‘Act East’ and are left wondering who’s going to ‘act’ or actually do the work for us. We are still waiting to see if Delhi will act someday and hoping for things to change. But the time is gone — if anybody has to act, it will have to be all of us together. It’s an opportunity to seize if we are united for a cause.”

The NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government completed a year on Wednesday.

On the occasion, the chief minister said the party would never compromise with ideologies and always follow the vision and ideals of their founder leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma.

“Late PA Sangma always wanted a common platform for the people of the region. When it came to governance, we are working with the NDA. When it comes to development, we are working with different political parties, but when it comes to our issues and ideologies, we will never compromise. If the situation demands, we are ready to stand up to any kind of challenge that our people might face.”

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