As the northeast is seething over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the BJP -- facing the wrath of not just the opposition, but also its allies and some of its own lawmakers -- has decided to do some damage control.
BJP's troubleshooter and general secretary Ram Madhav, who believes that some of the concerns over the bill are "genuine", arrived in Guwahati today to meet dissenting legislators in Assam and other party leaders. He will try to convince them about the government's intentions, he said.
The BJP leader said those opposing the bill are spreading misinformation in northeastern states, but the BJP will set things right.
"Some opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is genuine, but there is also a section that wants to create trouble and disturb peace in Assam and other states for political gains," said Mr Madhav.
The bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha amid allegations of "religious discrimination", aims to hasten the citizenship process for non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Thousands across the northeast hit the streets in protest, clashing with the police and showing black flags to BJP politicians.
Several allies of the BJP have made their opposition to the "discriminatory" bill known to the ruling party, but Mr Madhav stressed that the "bill is not any state or region specific, it is for the entire country".
"We're reaching out to our alliance partners who have expressed concerns over the bill, we'll reassure them that interests of each and every state will be taken care of. We're confident that those who have left will come back," Mr Madhav said referring to the Asom Gana Parishad's (AGP) exit from the NDA over the bill.
Ram Madhav said the AGP's decision was unfortunate and suggested that the party reconsidered its decision.
"It's unfortunate that the AGP quit NDA. Their apprehensions are just apprehensions. There is no truth there. We are committed to protecting the identity of the people of Assam. I appeal to the AGP to reconsider its decision," said Mr Madhav.
While explaining the rationale behind the contentious bill, Mr Madhav said that those who became the victims of Partition have nowhere to go. "So India will have to accept them," he said.
But he promised that a high-powered committee formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will safeguard the interests of the people of Assam by ensuring implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The Clause 6, which is the soul of Assam Accord, has remained unimplemented for the last 30 years and the BJP government wants to implement it in letter and spirit, he said.
Clause 6 of the accord suggests constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
But the BJP's partners aren't convinced.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has left for Delhi with a delegation that included a BJP minister to convince the centre to withdraw the bill.
"We have already got an appointment with the home minister and awaiting a response from the prime minister's office. We have passed a resolution against the bill and there has been no change in our stand," Mr Sangma said.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh also made it clear that the coalition government in the state led by the BJP will not support the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill unless there is a provision for protecting the indigenous people of the northeast.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal reassured agitators that he would "never betray them".
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and entered India before December 31, 2014, after six years of residence in the country, instead of the current 12 years, even if they do not have any proper documents.
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