BJP's ally in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad, on Tuesday took out a rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Guwahati, giving a clear ultimatum that it would break the alliance if the draft legislation is passed.
Through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Narendra Modi government at the centre plans to give citizenship to Hindu, Parsi, Sikh, Jain and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Assam, this created fears that it would lead to an influx of Bangladeshi Hindus. Being an Ahom nationalist party, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is vehemently opposed to this.
The AGP's ultimatum came on a day when several organisations called a 12-hour Assam bandh in protest against the Bill, bringing the state to a complete standstill. The two main opposition parties in Assam -- Congress and All India United Democratic Front - also backed the bandh.
The AGP, which gave "moral support" to the bandh, took out a massive rally, leaving its alliance partner in a fix. Around five thousand AGP supporters, including former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, took part in the rally.
"The bandh is spontaneous and it is about the people of Assam. Why have so many people come out in protest against the Bill? It is because they feel it will destroy Assam. If BJP goes forward with the Bill, we will break the alliance," AGP president and cabinet minister Atul Bora told NDTV.
The Assam government had on Monday directed all district administrations to ensure that there was no bandh in the state. Deputy commissioners had issued orders that all shops, business establishments and educational institutions remain open, transport facilities ply normally and all government officials should attend to their duties on Tuesday.
This is the first time the AGP has given such an ultimatum to the BJP since the alliance came to power in 2016. In the 2016 assembly elections, the BJP and its alliance partners AGP and Bodo People's Front won 61, 14 and 12 seats respectively. The alliance won 87 seats, well above the half-way mark in the 126-member Assam assembly. The ruling alliance would still have a majority even if the AGP withdraws support.
(With inputs from PTI)