The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that triggered protests across the north-east will not hurt the BJP's chances in the north-east, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju told NDTV as the border state votes for both the national and state elections today. The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised it would bring back the bill if voted to power.
"How should it (Citizenship Bill) affect our chances? It's only Congress's propaganda. We are rather taking more steps to protect the north-east. The Congress has damaged the north-east in terms of linguistic, cultural, political rights. Now we will protect the north-east," said Mr Rijiju, 47.
The main opponents of the Union Minister of State for Home in today's elections are the Congress's Nabam Tuki, a former chief minister, and the National People's Party's Khyoda Apik.
"This is not a special election. For me, every election is as important as the other election," Mr Rijiju said. "I won the elections earlier when BJP had no major base here. People love and affection were with me and this time also they are there. Every election, panchayat, assembly or Lok Sabha, all democratic processes are important..."
Analysts say the BJP may face an uphill task in winning back support of people in the north-east after the massive protests over the Citizenship Bill, which will grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who fled religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and entered India before December 31, 2014.
Tribes in the north-east are wary of being run over by the returnees and losing their indigenous identities, despite the government's assurance that nothing of this sort would happen.
"There is no problem. We are already very clear about what we should do and how to protect out people. It's okay, we are already in a comfortable position because of our work and we will ensure that nothing that affects the people of north-east should be done, not only by BJP but by any political party. We are very clear about that," Mr Rijiju told NDTV.
"Hopefully, the north-east will support BJP and Modi ji because no other party has done so much for the north-east as our party has done," he added.
Arunachal has two Lok Sabha seats.
Over seven lakh voters are eligible to vote in Arunachal Pradesh. In the first of the seven-phase national elections today, people in 18 states and two Union Territories are voting. Results will be out on May 23.
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