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Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma softens stance on Citizenship Bill, says his party ready for discussion if stakeholders are consulted  

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma softens stance on Citizenship Bill, says his party ready for discussion if stakeholders are consulted  

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma softens stance on Citizenship Bill, says his party ready for discussion if stakeholders are consulted  
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By Karishma Hasnat  Mar 7, 2019 5:47:26 PM IST (Published)

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma appeared to soften his stance on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Centre’s commitment to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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“We have been very clear that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in its current form is not acceptable. But if a situation arises where we are to discuss on the bill, we will consider from all angles, and only take a decision when all stakeholders are on board,” said Sangma, who is also the president of the National People’s Party (NPP). “It will not be correct for me to ask for the removal of clauses because it’s an issue where the entire Northeast has to come together.”
Sangma’s statement is significant because he happens to be the first CM from Northeast whose cabinet decided against supporting the bill. He was also instrumental in uniting at least ten regional political parties against the contentious legislation. So far, Sangma’s approach over the issue has been widely lauded.
The bill had lapsed after it failed to clear the Rajya Sabha hurdle in the Budget session of Parliament, the last before the general elections due by May. In a personal observation, Sangma said his party would be ready for a discussion with the hope of finding a middle ground, but only if stakeholders involved in the matter are consulted.
“I am an optimistic person, but it’s not something I can say on behalf of the government or the stakeholders – it’s a very complicated issue. The Northeast cannot be a target, and if there’s a way to find a solution, we can discuss it. If we are not satisfied, we will not accept it,” added Sangma.
Launching the NPP’s Assam Unit in Guwahati on Wednesday, Sangma said his party in a resolution adopted by the general body had decided to contest in all 25 seats, but they are yet to decide on the constituencies. The 41-year-old chief minister called upon people to unitedly work for their voices to be heard in New Delhi, saying he has had mixed experiences on how political leaders from the region are often treated in the corridors of power.
“It’s a general trend happening over the years – when it comes to the political situation in New Delhi and the central government, numbers speak. If any MP from Northeast has to meet with a senior leader in Delhi, they would hardly get a minute or two to discuss anything, papers would be put aside in a corner. But if 5-10 MPs go together, they will be offered tea, and problems would then be sorted out instantly - directions would be issued over just one phone call. So, politics is all about numbers,” remarked Sangma.
On the government’s ambitious Act East policy that seeks to strengthen India's ties with South East Asia and East Asian neighbors, Sangma said that it will be successful only when people of Northeast come together and work unitedly rather than waiting for the Centre.
“We talk about ‘Act East’, and are left wondering who’s going to ‘act’ or actually do the work for us. We are still waiting to see if Delhi will act someday, and hoping for things to change. But the time is gone - if anybody has to act, it will have to be all of us together. It’s an opportunity to seize if we are united for a cause.”
The NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government completed a year today. On the occasion, Sangma said that they will never compromise with the ideologies of the party and follow the vision and ideals of their founder leader and former Lok Sabha speaker, Purno Agitok Sangma. Conrad is PA Sangma’s son.
“The late PA Sangma always wanted a common platform for Northeast people. When it comes to governance, we are working with the NDA, when it comes to development – we are working with different political parties, but when it comes to our issues and ideologies, we will never compromise. If the situation demands, we are ready to stand up to any kind of challenge that our people might face.”
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