The BJP has finalised its alliances in the Northeast, setting a target of winning at least 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats from eight states of the region, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav announced on his Facebook page early on Wednesday morning.
Madhav, the BJP’s incharge of the Northeast, held a series of discussions in Guwahati on Tuesday till past midnight and sealed the alliances with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), National People’s Party (NPP), Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKK).
While Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) heads the government in Nagaland, National People’s Party (NPP) is the majority partner in Meghalaya.
“The BJP, NPP, NDPP, AGP and BPF will fight together in Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with the mission of defeating Congress party at the hustings. In Tripura, the BJP will fight the elections together with IPFT, our alliance partner,” Madhav said.
In Sikkim, BJP’s alliance will be with the main opposition party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, he added.
The alliances have been finalised under the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) political coalition with the regional parties of the region.
“This alliance has the potential of winning not less than 22 out of 25 seats in the region and play an important role in seeing Modi-ji as the PM once again,” Madhav posted on Facebook.
Madhav held meetings with chief ministers of BJP-led governments Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and the heads of coalition governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya before sealing the deals.
On Tuesday, Madhav had met Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Madhav also met a delegation of the AGP, the led by party president Atul Bora, and finalised reunion of the former allies.
“It was a hectic day of parlays yesterday in the North East. Sustained negotiations at Dimapur and Guwahati with different senior leaders. Have finally sealed the alliance and electoral understanding between the BJP and all major parties in the North East,” he added in the post.
“While the Opposition is still talking and talking about ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (grand alliance), we already have ours in place in the North East and the rest of the country. The NDA is a much stronger coalition today than before,” Madhav said.
No details are yet available on how many of their own candidates will BJP field in the region. Assam has 14 seats, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh has two seats each and Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim have one seat each.
For Assam, despite several senior leaders of the state unit denying possibility of any tie-up with AGP, the BJP high command decided to forge an alliance with the regional partner once again after it parted ways two months ago in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Ram Madhav, tweeted, “After discussion, BJP and AGP have decided to work together in the coming Parliament election in Assam to defeat Congress. Announced it at Guwahati in the presence of Himanta Biswa Sarma of BJP and Atul Bora and Keshav Mahanta of AGP. BPF [Bodoland People’s Front] will be the 3rd partner in the alliance.”
Within hours, rumblings of discontent surfaced in the AGP, with former chief minister Prafulla Mahanta questioning his party’s alacrity in returning to the NDA fold despite no assurance from the Centre on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, said media reports.
Mahanta told News18, “I have been opposing the BJP and pledging my support for implementation of Assam Accord and protesting against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.”
If the Citizenship Bill is passed, Assam will be full of Bangladeshis, he said. “At a public rally, BJP president Amit Shah had announced his party’s commitment to give shelter to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India. After that, there’s no question of alliance or reconciliation with the BJP,” the two-time CM of the state added.
In January this year, the AGP walked out of the alliance after failing to convince the BJP that the Bill is a “threat” to the state and is considered to be against the basic principles of the 1985 Assam Accord. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but lapsed after not being tabled in the Rajya Sabha. Senior BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, have, however, reiterated that the party will try to “bring the Bill again”.
The Bill proposes to make non-Muslim minority immigrants from three neighbouring countries, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship via comparatively relaxed norms. As per the 1985 Assam Accord, any person who entered Assam after midnight of March 24, 1971, will be identified as a foreigner.
Mahanta rubbished the claims by some within the party that he is driven by his personal ambitions to object to the alliance. “It is a baseless allegation. To say that I am against the AGP-BJP alliance because I couldn’t be the Governor is a lie, as is the claim that I ever showed any interest in contesting from Nagaon,” he added.
He blamed the party for not making him privy to all major decision-making processes that involve the BJP and said he was kept in the dark over the possibility of an alliance. “Even in 2016, the senior party colleagues had not shared with me the decision of forging an alliance with BJP or discussed the matter of seat sharing. They never thought I am important enough to know this,” he said.
Mahanta has called upon regional organisations such as the All Assam Students Union, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad and others, asking them to support and strengthen the base of the regional party. He also appealed to all the senior leaders of the AGP to not be “opportunistic” and work in tandem with these organisations “for the interest of Assam”.
While Mahanta has received support from some of the disgruntled members of the party, the other wing of AGP led by President Atul Bora is convinced that the future of the party lies in aligning with BJP for the Lok Sabha elections.