BJP & AGP Affirm To Contest LS Poll Together Burying Hatchet

BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav has confirmed that the party will work together with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) to contest the coming Lok Sabha elections in Assam.”After discussion, BJP and AGP have decided to work together in the coming parliament election in Assam to defeat Congress,” the BJP strategist said after a crucial meeting in Guwahati attended by AGP chief Atul Bora.”We will together ensure that Congress is defeated in all the 14 seats of the state,” Ram Madhav said. More than two months after they had put in their papers and announced break-up of the alliance with senior NDA partner BJP, the three ministers of the AGP on March 13 withdrew their resignations and rejoined official assignments formally ending all speculations regarding the future of the relationship between the two parties.BJP and AGP had late last evening announced the decision to renew their alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, even though the saffron party remains committed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.AGP had snapped ties with the BJP in early January over the controversial bill  passed by the Lok Sabha but yet to be  okayed by the  Rajya Sabha. The three AGP ministers in the Sarbananda Sonowal government had submitted their resignations. However, the Chief Minister had not accepted their resignations. The  meeting  between senior leaders of the BJP and the AGP took place at the Brahmaputra State Guest House, which is the official residence of the Chief Minister. Besides Sonowal, the meeting was attended by Finance Minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass, AGP president Atul Bora, AGP working president Keshab Mahanta, and other members of the AGP Legislature Party.A variety of issues were discussed at the meet. After the meeting, Bora told waiting reporters   that in past few months some gap had emerged between AGP and BJP, especially at the grassroots level, due to the opposing views of the parties on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.“Now, to remove the gap, the State BJP president and I will have joint meetings with the grassroots workers of both our parties. Our alliance will definitely prevail in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections just like we did during the 2016 Assembly polls,” Bora said. Asked  to comment on  the CAB  Bora said, “We remain firm with regard to our stand on  the CAB and have made it clear to BJP. The issue will be resolved with proper consultation and consensus among our two parties. We will fulfil the commitment made to the people.”According to Bora, the final decision on seat sharing will be finalized on March 16 after a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah in New Delhi.“Our main task now is to work together to defeat the opposition in the Lok Sabha polls,” Bora added. Dass said that the State unit of BJP wants to see Narendra Modi back as the Prime Minister for another term.“So our party’s central leadership advised us to work in alliance with the AGP. There are some differences between the two parties over the CAB and in coming days the issue will be sorted out through proper discussion. Moreover, difference between coalition parties is not a new case. In Maharashtra, our party had some differences with the Shiv Sena but now both the parties will take part in the general election as part of the NDA coalition,” Dass said.“Tiwa Jatiya Aikya Mancha, Rabha Hasong Joutha Sangram Samiti and Sanmilita Ganashakti will also support our coalition and this coalition of AGP-BJP-BPF will win at least 12 Lok Sabha seats,” Dass added.It is noteworthy that in recent days the State leadership of the BJP, including Dass and Sonowal, had publicly taken a stand against renewal of alliance with the AGP. However, the central leadership of the saffron party was keen to have AGP back on board to prevent division of votes.Speaking on the occasion, Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “As we have renewed the coalition with the AGP, so today the Chief Minister invited the AGP Legislature Party members for a discussion and urged all three ministers of the regional party to withdraw their resignations and take charge of their respective departments. Moreover, our party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav had made the same request last night to the AGP leaders.”However, contrary to Bora’s statement, Sarma said that the process of seat sharing between the two parties have been completed and the nominees of both parties are likely to be announced on March 16.Sources said that BJP is likely to contest ten out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from Assam, leaving three for the AGP and one for the BPF. AGP is likely to get Dhubri, Barpeta and Kaliabor, while BPF will contest the Kokrajhar seat.Later in the day, the three AGP ministers – Atul Bora, Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhushan Choudhury – once again took charge of their respective departments. The AGP, which was born out of a strong anti-immigrant agitation in the 1980s led by the All Assam Students’ Union, had severed ties with BJP accusing it of violating the Assam Accord. In fact, all three AGP ministers in the Sarbananda Sonowal government had resigned as a mark of protest (with inputs from The Assam Tribune).

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