Meghalaya’s UDP cuts ties with BJP-led NEDA

Shillong: The United Democratic Party (UDP), Meghalaya’s main regional political party, on Wednesday announced that it has snapped ties with the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The announcement came days after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah said that his party will make the Bill part of the party manifesto for the coming Lok Sabha elections and pass it if it returns to power.

“We have snapped ties with the BJP-led NEDA over the controversial Bill, besides the insensitivity of the BJP leadership towards indigenous Meghalayans in particular and in the Northeast as a whole,” UDP Vice President Allantry Franklin Dkhar told the media here.

“In fact, our the decision was taken a couple of days after 11 regional political parties from across the northeastern states met in Guwahati on January 29 which unanimously agreed to oppose the Bill,” Dkhar added.

The UDP, which has nine members, including two associate members in the 60-member state Assembly, is supporting the National People’s Party (NPP)-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government.

Two BJP legislators are part of the six-party MDA coalition government.

“We have seen Shah’s statement in Assam saying that they (BJP) will go ahead with the Bill if the BJP is voted to power again. Therefore, we cannot allow the insensitivity of the Central government to go against the indigenous communities in the region,” the UDP leader said.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016,which was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant Indian nationality to people belonging to minority communities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian – in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residing in India.

However, the ruling BJP could not pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, as it was opposed by several civil society groups and political parties, including a few allies.

Asked if the UDP will continue to support the MDA government, Dkhar said: “It is up to the NPP to take a call on it since they are leading the government.”

The NPP had reiterated its opposition to the contentious legislation.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who is also the NPP President, had also threatened to sever ties with the NDA if the Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha.