Assam Bandh: The government and the people are disconnected, bad omen for BJP

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Assam Bandh: The government and the people are disconnected, bad omen for BJP

Chetan Bhattarai | October 25, 2018 11:45 hrs

GUWAHATI: The success of the Assam Bandh on 23rd October last that was called by 46 organisations spearheaded by Krishak Mukti Ssangram Samiti (KMSS) has made it clear that the larger Assamese sentiment is against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016). It seems there is no turning back on this. The government tried everything in its rule book to foil the bandh and even went to the extent of threatening to cancel trade licences of shops and establishments that would remain closed on that day. But there was a massive support to the cause from the ground level. The whole state went on a shutdown mode. 

In Guwahati, the government used the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) to keep the transportation and public commuting lines open but there were very few people later in the afternoon who availed this service. Only a few government employees were seen in the morning hours waiting at the bus stops. It seemed that everyone was in agreement that the reason for the shutdown was valid and there indeed is a threat to the greater Assamese identity. 

The bandh witnessed a few sporadic instances of violence but these were quickly brought under control and it was largely peaceful as requested by KMSS leader, Akhil Gogoi. What was even more interesting was the support of the business establishments throughout the state. It was a total shutdown from Dhubri to Saikhowa as businessmen were not sure about the security arrangements. Plus they understand the undercurrents better than anyone else. 

This bandh was clearly a mandate of the Assamese people and an indicator to what is going to happen if any political party seeks to get the Citizenship Amendment Bill passed. For the past six months the state has been burning due to protests and agitations by various organisations coming out protesting the bandh. The arrival of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) started the fire and the bandh on 23rd October is a proof of what the people of Assam have to say about the controversial bill. 

The state BJP might be under pressure to support the bill, but we have noticed that a number of BJP members have spoken against it as well only to land in a soup. Coalition partner of the BJP in Assam, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has, from the very first day, spoken against the bill. The party believes that the bill nulls the historic Assam Accord and therefore is not good for the state. They have gone to the extent of threatening to pull out from the government if the bill is passed. The massive AGP rally from Latasil to Chandmari on 23rd October coinciding with the shutdown is a proof of AGP flexing its muscle and undertaking a brand building exercise that has threatened the BJP government right in the heart of the city. 

It seems the BJP is still wondering how to tackle the issue that has gone out of its hand. The imminent danger is lurking as the panchayat polls and the general  elections are just a few months away. If this sentiment prevails and BJP continues to remain unclear on how it will deal with this political hot potato, it might just about decide the fate of the party and its coalition government in Assam.

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