The citizenship bill is set to trigger a political realignment in the northeast, where the BJP ruling all seven states singly or as part of a coalition. Ten parties - all key regional allies of the BJP -- have decided to oppose the bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha and could be tabled soon in the Rajya Sabha. The parties have indicated that if the Centre is not ready to bend, they would walk out of the 13-party Northeast Democratic Alliance -an anti-Congress platform through which the BJP made inroads in the northeast.
Snowballing of the issue may even affect the BJP's chances in the northeast in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Of the 25 seats in the area, regional parties have influence over 20 seats.
The BJP insists that the protests over the citizenship bill will have no spillover effects on the party's political fortunes. "In Mizoram, there is opposition. So in some states like Tripura, they have individual issues with the bill. This will not have any spillover effect in Assam or in the elections," Ranjeet Das, the chief of Assam BJP told NDTV. "Despite the protests, we have done very well in the tribal council elections in Assam. This goes to show that the people's mandate is with us," he added.
The BJP has already lost a crucial ally in Assam. Earlier this month, the Asom Gana Parishad had walked out of the alliance, after giving an ultimatum to the BJP. In other states, many others are disgruntled over the Central government's determination to back the proposed law that proposes that illegal migrants from minority communities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan be eligible for citizenship after six years of stay in India.
At a meeting today -- called by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma and hosted by the Asom Gana Parishad - 10 regional parties resolved to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind over the bill.
If the BJP went ahead with tabling the bill in Rajya Sabha, the parties threatened to pull out of the Northeast Democratic Alliance. At least four chief ministers have written to the Centre raising their concerns over the bill.
"This meeting is a natural process, it's not politically motivated. This convention was needed that we may unite and oppose the bill. This is our responsibility... as leaders from the northeast, we have to talk about the region," said Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya and chief of the National People's Party.
"The Convention has decided to form a committee to reach out to all political parties in different parts of the country on this bill," Mr Sangma told reporters after the meeting in Guwahati.
Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United), a BJP ally, is supporting the demand of the northeast parties. The JD-U has decided to vote against the bill in Rajya Sabha and help the northeast parties gather pan-India support on the issue. A delegation led by senior leader KC Tyagi and the party's national vice-president Prashant Kishore was present at the meeting.
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