Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said that the decision of his Janata Dal (United) party to vote against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, when it is tabled in the Rajya Sabha would not hurt its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“We have been allies for long, but maintained our independent stand on a number of matters,” Kumar was quoted as saying by PTI.

Kumar told reporters that the Asom Gana Parishad had asked the Janata Dal (United) to support its stand against the bill. The Asom Gana Parishad had earlier this month broken its ties with the BJP because it opposes the government’s bill.

Kumar said his party decided to vote against the bill to protect the identity of the Assamese people. “When the issue of the citizenship bill cropped up, we took the view that the identity of Assamese people must not come under any sort of attack,” he said. “We expressed our views to the Union Home Ministry and the BJP leadership as well.”

The controversial bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8. The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians – minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan – if they have lived in the country for six years. Even those who do not possess the required documents are eligible for Indian citizenship under the bill.

Noting that the opposition Congress had walked out of the Lower House before the bill was put to vote, Kumar asked whether the party would do the same in the Rajya Sabha, where it has substantial numbers. “If it abstains, it may end up helping the bill getting passed,” Kumar said.

The Janata Dal (United) made its decision to oppose the bill at a meeting of the party’s national office bearers at Kumar’s residence on Sunday. Janata Dal (United) Vice President Prashant Kishor will visit Assam with a delegation of party members on January 27 to take stock of the situation.