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Assam: AGP, BJP seal LS polls tie-up despite Citizenship Bill 'split'

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav addressing the media after meeting with AGP leaders
Assam: AGP, BJP seal LS polls tie-up despite Citizenship Bill 'split'
Assam: AGP, BJP seal LS polls tie-up despite Citizenship Bill 'split

ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) will fight the Lok Sabha election in Assam in alliance with the BJP, two months after severing ties with the saffron party over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The alliance was finalised in a meeting involving BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, AGP president Atul Bora and others that ended post-midnight on Tuesday.

"After discussion, the BJP and AGP decided to work together in the coming Parliament election in Assam to defeat Congress," Madhav, the BJP's in-charge of the northeast, tweeted early on Wednesday.

"Announced it at Guwahati in d presence of Himanta Biswa Sarma of BJP and Atul Bora and Keshav Mahanta of AGP," he said, adding that the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) will be the third partner in the alliance.

Talking to reporters after sealing the alliance, Bora said the former allies had joined hands again to defeat the Congress. The AGP chief, however, did not respond to any query regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the party's stand on it during the election.

The AGP had in January withdrew support to the BJP government in Assam in protest against the Narendra Modi government's decision to go ahead with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan after six years of residence in India.

Since then, the AGP has openly criticised the BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for bringing in a "communal bill" to settle the Bangladeshi Hindus in Assam. According to a senior AGP MLA, the party was divided over the issue of tying up with the BJP again, fearing backlash from ground-level workers.

On Monday night, the AGP MLAs held a discussion over realigning with the saffron party, but the meeting remained inconclusive. They went into a huddle again on Tuesday night and decided to go ahead with the alliance. In 2014, the BJP had won seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have three MPs each and another is an independent. The BPF and the AGP have no representation in the lower house.

The AGP, BJP and the BPF had contested the 2016 Assembly election together and defeated the Congress, which had been in power in the state for three consecutive terms since 2001. The AGP and BJP had fought separately in the panchayat polls last December.

Polling for the general election will be held in three phases in Assam—April 11, 18 and 23.

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