The meeting was also attended by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Mr Sarma.
Guwahati: Two months after a bitter divorce over the controversial citizenship amendment bill, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the BJP reunited on Wednesday and entered into an alliance for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam.
Though a formal announcement of the seat-sharing formula is still to be made, sources in the BJP-led alliance said that the ruling BJP would contest 10 Lok Sabha seats while the AGP will get three seats — Koliabor, Barpeta and Dhubri — and the BPF would contest Kokrajhar seat.
Informing that three AGP ministers who had submitted their resignation from the BJP-led coalition state government had not only withdrawn their resignation but rejoined office immediately, Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters, “After a prolonged discussion, the BJP and the AGP have decided to work together in the coming parliamentary elections in Assam to defeat the Congress. The Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) will be the third partner in the alliance.”
The decision was taken at a meeting of senior AGP leaders, including party president Atul Bora, former minister Keshav Mahanta and others with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav on Tuesday night, sources said.
Mr Bora reiterated, “The decision to join the alliance was taken in the interest of the state and to ensure the defeat of Congress in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.”
The meeting was also attended by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Mr Sarma. However, AGP stalwart and two-time chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was not present in the meeting.
Mr Sarma said that a seat-sharing arrangement has also been finalised but will be announced after the meeting of the BJP parliamentary board on March 16 in New Delhi.
“We and alliance partners — the AGP and the BPF — have created a consensus on seat-sharing arrangement. It will be announced by our central party leadership,” said Mr Sarma.
The Assam deputy chief minister also clarified that neither the BJP nor the AGP have diluted their stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which has lapsed in Parliament on March as it could not get the Rajya Sabha’s nod.
“We are committed to re-introduce this bill in the next Parliament session but in between we will have two-three months’ time in which we have decided to create a consensus on the issue,” said Mr Sarma who was flanked by the AGP president.
Mr Bora, who also called on Mr Sonowal, said, “We have renewed our ties on the request of the central BJP leadership. Seat-sharing details will be announced later.”
The AGP and BJP had fought the 2016 Assembly polls in alliance and had wrested Assam from the Congress, which had ruled the state for three consecutive terms since 2001.
However, relations between the two parties soured over time and the regional party snapped its ties with the BJP this January following differences over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
Mr Mahanta has been opposed to the idea of returning back to alliance. “In my view we should have gone to Lok Sabha elections on its own to strengthen the party network at the grassroots,” said Mr Mahanta.
The decision of AGP has also surprised many civil society groups and students’ body, which had praised the AGP for taking a bold decision on citizenship bill.