There were numerous attempts made to unify the regional parties from the North Eastern (NE) region so that their voices can be heard in Parliament as there are just 25 seats representing the seven sisters and one brother of Lok Sabha seats. The topography has put up unique challenges for the respective states in the region and hence it is difficult to have a unanimous agenda. The opposition to the Citizenship Amendment (CAB) Bill, which picked up momentum from January 8, 2019, when the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha is not showing any signs of abatement and has seen the unity of all the eight states on one common issue- Scrapping of the Bill.
The region is spearheading the demand for the scrapping of the Bill while expressing fears that the implementation of the same will threaten the identity of the indigenous communities. Getting into damage control mode, the Union Home Ministry (MHA) on January 22, 2019 said that under the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, nobody would be granted Indian citizenship without the consent of the respective state government.
Under such pressure, it is feared that the saffron party which is gaining ground in the region is on a setback due to the bill, but on January 31, 2019, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, while brushing aside talks that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is putting the BJP on the back foot in the northeast, alleged that some organisations “lacking in any support base” were misleading people on the issue for “personal gains”. Hence the claimed that the idea that the BJP is on the back foot in the NE region because of the CAB is complete falsehood and baseless.
Deb was referring to the BJP bagging 19 of the 28 seats in the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council elections (in Assam) which were held on January 19, days after the protests over the bill — that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to religious communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — other than Muslims — who became refugees in these countries following persecution.
Meanwhile, protesters in Tinsukia attacked the BJP District President Lankeshwar Moran on January 30, 2019 while he was on his way to attend a programme organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and it is feared that this might have a similar impact in other states, which will surely drive away the saffron party workers from the region.
It may be mentioned that the attack took place was unprovoked but the mob of agitators, who were waving black flags in front of Moran, suddenly turned violent and started assaulting him.
The remaining states too have raised the war cry to oppose the Bill which has slowed down the day to day activities just ahead of Lok Sabha general election. The electorate here has a short memory, even if the BJP will highlight its contribution towards national development, the voters will only see the immediate issues and this time it is to oppose the CAB and reject religious propaganda which will surely be a setback for the saffron party.
Tripura Chief Minister, known for his controversial media statements, is now on denial mode in thinking that the opposition against the bill will not affect the BJP vote bank. He is just fooling himself. Hailing from a BJP ruled state, he should seek troubleshooting formula and try to retain the vote bank which has been fast eroding since January 8.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government headed by Narendra Damodardas Modi can make a U-turn on the CAB, it will surely be an advantage to the party as the election is just about 60 days away. But adopting denial as a way of dealing with the present situation is not going to boost the vote bank of BJP.