The United Democratic Party (UDP), a constituent of Meghalaya's ruling alliance, on Wednesday announced that it has severed ties with the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Formed in 2016, the NEDA is an alliance of non-Congress parties in the northeast. The UDP is a constituent of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), which also includes the BJP. The UDP has nine MLAs in the MDA, while the BJP has two.
The UDP decided to leave the NEDA following BJP chief Amit Shah's announcement in Assam on Sunday that if voted to power after the Lok Sabha polls, the saffron party would ensure that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed in Parliament, UDP vice-president Allantry F Dkhar said.
"We have decided to sever ties with the NEDA. It is amply clear that the BJP does not respect the sentiment of the people of the north east region and has announced that it will bring back the bill," he told PTI.
The contentious Citizenship Bill is set to lapse on June 3, when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends. It could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget session, the last Parliament session of the present government, which ended last week.
"The regrouping of all political parties of the region in Guwahati last month has rendered the NEDA bereft of regional parties," Dkhar said.
Ten political parties of the northeastern region, most of which are members of the NEDA, along with the JD(U) -- the BJP's key ally in Bihar, had on January 29 unanimously decided to oppose the bill.
Last year, the MDA cabinet, which includes a BJP minister, had also adopted a resolution opposing the bill in Meghalaya and Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma was instrumental in leading an all-party delegation against the bill to Delhi to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The Asom Gana Parishad had severed ties with the BJP-led Assam government over the issue last month. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who fled persecution, after six years of residence in India, instead of 11 years, which is currently the norm, even if they do not possess any document.
Several organisations and political parties claim that the bill threatens the identity, language and culture of indigenous people.