How Modi Made it Big Despite BJP's Push For Citizenship Bill in Assam
For the BJP, the Lok Sabha election results in Assam were not just encouraging, but also an indication that the movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was fading out.
BJP supporters show victory sign as they celecbrate their party's lead in the Lok Sabha elections, at BJP office, in Kolkata. (Image: PTI)
Guwahati: The BJP seems to have bucked all anger it faced for aggressively pushing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Assam, as the party on Thursday singlehandedly won nine of the ten Lok Sabha constituencies it fought on – the highest ever in the history of the state.
Its ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the regional party of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), who fought in the remaining four seats, drew a blank.
For the BJP, the results were not just encouraging but also an indication that the movement against the citizenship bill is fading out. Earlier, the entire region-wide movement against the Bill had put BJP’s plans to regularise the entry of persecuted Hindus from Bangladesh to a halt, and forced it to give an assurance to ‘review’ the bill.
Even though Assam’s biggest student group, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), along with hundreds of other organisations and intellectuals made an appeal to votes against those who supported the bill, Thursday’s mandate seems to have depicted a different picture altogether.
AASU believes that the sentiments of the voters did not transform into votes. The AASU General Secretary, Lurinjyoti Gogoi said, “Though the anti- Citizenship Bill movement was strong, it seems like its implications could not reach all sections of voters in the state. The BJP’s glossy campaigns and schemes have possibly swung the votes in their favour.”
Gogoi also highlighted the sensitive nature of the bill, one that has to be dealt with in depth “in order to realize the threats it poses to the indigenous communities”.
The student leader, however, said that AASU still has faith in the people of the state, who according to him, would rise above party politics whenever there is a threat to the identity of the community. “We respect the people’s verdict but it doesn’t mean that the people of Assam are supporting the Bill,” Gogoi said.
The BJP’s push for the Bill did cost the party its biggest alliance in the state with the AGP earlier this year. However, AGP’s regional party rekindled these ties with the ruling party on the basis of a seat sharing agreement for the general election.
For former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta, it was the fractured anti- Citizenship Bill camp that failed to influence and educate the people of Assam. Prior to the polls, Mahanta had openly defied his party’s decision of allying with the BJP and refused to cast his vote as a sign of protest.
“Though there were several groups protesting against the bill, these camps could not unit themselves to fight against the powerful BJP. Moreover, they could not take the ‘core issues’ related the bill to grass root levels,” he said.
In contrast, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal stated that the mandate was nothing but a smart one. Sonowal stated, “The people of Assam are smart and they know that the future of the state and the country is secure only in the hands of Narendra Modi. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister Modi, the people of the country are sure of rapid development, the security of the nation. The opposition has tried to spread rumours about CAB but the people of Assam have realized the truth behind such tactics and understood that the Bill is not going to harm them. Assam has voted in favour of nationalism,” he said.
Adding to the CM, the convener of North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and state’s Finance Minister, Himanta Bishwa Sarma said, “People of Assam has realised that CAB was brought on humanitarian grounds. People of the state have been sensitive towards everyone and Thursday’s mandate expressed their belief in humanity.”
At the time of campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had termed the bill as a ‘penance’ for the mistakes committed at the time of partition of the country. “If the children of Ma Bharati’s (India’s) are in trouble, isn’t it the duty of India to take care of its children? Is the colour of the passport is important than the colour of blood? There were mistakes done during the partition and this bill is a correction to them,” he had said.
Facing strong opposition and widespread protests, the BJP failed to pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha in January. Then in February, BJP national president Amit Shah announced in Assaam’s Lakhimpur district that BJP will bring the bill again, if the party returns to power.
The controversial legislation seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and ease the process of granting citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled three neighbouring countries- Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to escape religious persecution. The anti-CAB campaigners including AGP said that the Bill is against the spirit of the Assam Accord which said that anyone who entered into Assam after March 24 midnight would be treated as ‘foreigners’.
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