Stakes remain high in Assam

Massive poll rallies by various parties in the state remind people of promises by politicians over the infiltration crisis, flood and erosion, and dearth of development in the region, reports NAVA THAKUR

Amidst the upcharge of Covid-19 in various parts of India, Assam (along with West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry) prepared for the State legislative assembly elections. The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance is seeking a fresh mandate for their development activities along with the safety and security to the indigenous people though the polls scheduled for 27 March, 1, and 6 April. The opposition Indian National Congress-led alliance looks for regaining power in the State.

Massive poll rallies by various political parties reminded the people of promises by politicians over their boundless infiltration crisis, perennial flood & erosion, and dearth of developments in the region. BJP star campaigners targeted the misrule of Congress during its tenures both in New Delhi and Dispur and emphasized development activities with effectively addressing recurrent problems including flood & erosion.

The Congress is vigorously campaigning with five guarantees to the voters including the commitment to nullify the citizenship amendment act (CAA, brought by BJP), which witnessed massive public demonstrations in the Brahmaputra valley. CAA, which provides legal supports to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, who came to India prior to 31 December 2014, because of religious persecutions in those neighboring countries, contradicts with the Assam Accord guidelines that do not allow any immigrants after 25 March 1971 to get citizenship.

The party also promises to create five lakh government jobs, hike tea plantation workers’ daily wage to Rs 365, provide free electricity up to 200 units for every household and approve 2,000 monthly packages for each housewife. It has already forged a pre-poll alliance with All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), CPI(M), CPI, CPI (ML), Anchalik Gana Morcha, etc.

The saffron party has engaged a number of political heavyweights including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president JP Nadda, Union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Smriti Irani, etc, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, party’s national general secretary Dilip Saikia, etc for election rallies.

Addressing his first poll rally in Assam’s Barak Valley, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the opposition Congress as a no leader, no policy, and no ideology party. Modi also commented that the grand old party became so unstable today that it could hardly save

Assam and maintain developmental works. He extended greetings for the Holi (Doul, Phakua) and New Year festival (for both the Bengali and Assamese communities).

Earlier, Shah promised the people to make Assam free from infiltration, terror and perennial flood while maintaining relentless development activities. He assured that the menace of illegal migrants in Assam would be a matter of past within the next five years. As Congress has joined hands with AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, it can not protect Assam from the influx. He repeated the Centre’s promise to deal with the problems of flood and erosion pragmatically if the saffron party is voted to power in Dispur again.

Singh in a number of public rallies assured the people that the wheel of development would be continued in the coming days as the saffron party was expecting re-election. He remembered the legendary cultural personality, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, during his speech.

Similarly, Adityanath mentioned about Shrimanta Shankardev, the fifteen-century Vashnavite philosopher who shaped the Assamese culture and paid tributes to him as a preacher of great Indian cultural entity.

The nationalist leader criticized the Congress for maintaining appeasement politics and ignoring Assam and the north-eastern region in its tenures. Fadnavis also criticized Congress for forging an alliance with AIUDF and urged everyone to remain alert against the divisive forces. He predicted that the saffron party would win in Assam as well as in West Bengal elections.

Chouhan commented that the Congress was following (Muhammad Ali) Jinnah’s path to destroy the country. He added that Congress today does not prefer Ghulam Nabi Azad or Anand Sharma, but Ajmal in Assam, Muslim League in Kerala, Furfura Sharif in West Bengal etc. Chouhan termed the Congress as a failed party which only gave the corruption, infiltration, terrorism, violence, unemployment and hunger.

Nadda also criticized the opposition party for creating a vote bank with the Muslim migrants (from Bangladesh). Ms Irani highlighted the advantages for transferring money to beneficiaries directly through their bank accounts where the tea plantation families got advantages. She mentioned the hike of daily wages for tea labourers from rupees 97 to 217, increase of maternity benefit to rupees 18,000 and offering student scholarships to thousands of beneficiaries, two-wheelers to meritorious girls, etc.

On the other hand, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala slammed PM Modi for false promises. Talking about the four-year-old promise of BJP led government for 1,300-km expressways on both banks of Brahmaputra, he questioned where it is now. Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel commented that the BJP has two chief ministers indicating the tension between State chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma.

The Congress is expecting dividends out of poll campaigns by party chief Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party’s top leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra along with Parliamentarians Gaurav Gogoi, Pradyut Borodoloi, State Congress chief Ripun Bora, senior leaders Debabrat Saikia, Rakibul Hussain, Bharat Narah, Rupjyoti Kurmi, Ramen Barthakur, Wajed Ali Choudhury, Pranjal Ghatowar, etc.

CM Sonowal is seeking re-election from the Majuli-SC assembly constituency in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra river. Powerful minister Himanta Biswa Sarma continues to be the candidate for the Jalukbari seat. Party’s Assam unit president Ranjeet Kr Dass is fighting for the Patacharkuchi constituency leaving his seat (Sorbhog) to Sankar Chandra Das.

Assembly speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami is seeking re-election from Jorhat seat and deputy speaker Aminul Haque Laskar from Sonai, whereas ministers HB Sarma (Jalukbari), Chandra Mohan Patowary (Dharmapur), Siddhartha Bhattacharjee (Guwahati East), Bhadesh Kalita (Rongiya), Piyush Hazarika (Jagiroad-SC), Naba Kumar Doley (Dhakuakhana-ST), Ranjeet Dutta

(Behali), Parimal Suklabaidya (Dholai-SC), etc also put their candidatures as sitting legislators.

BJP leaders namely Angoorlata Deka (Batadrowa), Mrinal Saikia (Khumtai), Padma Hazarika (Sootia), Prasanta Phukan (Dibrugarh), Atul Bora (Dispur),

Suman Haripriya (Hajo), Bhaskar Sarma (Margherita), Ashok Anand Singhal (Dhekiajuli), Narayan Deka (Borkhetri), Ranoj Pegu (Dhemaji-ST), Ramakanta Deori (Morigaon), Gurujyoti Das (Mangaldoi-SC), Kushal Duwari (Thowra), Ashok Singhi (Bilasipara East), Jayanta Malla Barua (Nalbari), etc are also in the fray.

Recently, Asom Goriya Parishad and All Assam Minority Development Council extended supports to BJP candidates in the polls. They expressed their gratitude to the ruling party for sanctioning 35 lakh for the development of the indigenous Muslim community of Assam.

The Goriya Parishad president Abdul Hamid stated that they received benefits from the BJP led government. The newly launched regional political party named Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP), led by former All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi, has expanded its membership drive across the State with the expectation to challenge candidates of BJP and Congress-led alliances. Another new party named Raijor Dol, founded by the RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, also preaches for their candidates with full enthusiasm, even though its leader remains behind bars since December 2019 on sedition charges.

The state government has recently declared the polling days as paid holidays to encourage. Employees of all factories, plantations, shops & commercial establishments, public entertainment or amusements establishment, firms and other workshops, banking institutions, etc will enjoy paid holidays on the poll dates accordingly. A number of incidents relating to pre-poll violence are also observed where a BJP worker named Devananda Gogoi was murdered by one Joichandra Gogoi (now under arrest).

The electoral authority adopted all necessary precautionary measures due to the pandemic for polling exercises as the State reported over 30 new corona positive cases increasing its tally to 2,17,872 with 1,099 casualties (2,15,146 patients have already recovered). Additional polling stations are also arranged to accommodate the access voters. Moreover, the postal ballot facility has been arranged for individuals with suspected corona infection along with senior citizens, disabled persons, etc.