The Election lollipops and the question of Assamese Identity
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The Election lollipops and the question of Assamese Identity

Chetan Bhattarai | January 10, 2019 10:16 hrs

The BJP has been cornered by the people of Assam to start thinking and acting or get ready for a pack up. Both the state and the centre are aware of this and are trying everything to hold the ground.

After the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the most argued government move in recent times in Assam is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. It has pushed the ruling BJP in a political quagmire just before the general elections.

The fight is majorly because of the communication divide and avoiding a social debate by the parties involved. The public is still in two minds as the opinion remains divided in the social media which today is the primary source of raising voice and concerns. Moreover, the haphazard manner and the timing in which the Bill is tried to be pushed in the Indian parliament has left the state of Assam burning.

To call the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) just another student organisation would be a huge mistake on the part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  AASU is a formidable force in Assam. Though its role is questioned in today’s times but its relevance is no doubt unquestionable when it comes to the safety of rights of the Assamese community. It is THE organisation when it comes to spearheading anything Assamese. People in Assam still have a lot of respect, love and fear for the AASU.

The BJP came to power in 2016 not because it was popular but because the people of Assam were tired of the 15-year Congress rule and wanted Poriborton. During the election campaigns of 2014 and 2016, the BJP had mainly promised to deport illegal Bangladeshis and also work on the Assam Accord and provide Scheduled Tribes (ST) status to 6 communities of Assam. The ST status had been a long battle for these communities and the Centre’s move to list these 6 communities as ST is a welcome move.

As soon as the ST status was announced in the media, immediately it was termed an election lollipop by many. The BJP’s argument that nation or community first was not given much importance as they had delayed it for the whole ruling period of the Modi government. Now, as the ship is about to sail, Simran is running after it. Congress in-charge for Assam Harish Rawat was right in saying “Badi der ki meherbaan aatey aatey”.

There is a unanimous belief in BJP that the Bill and the ST status were long due and the committee for clause 6 of the Assam Accord to safeguard the interests of the Assamese are important keeping in view the demographic and cultural changes that the state is facing. The central government is Hindu oriented and for them safety and security of largely the Hindus is of prime importance. It is their vote bank and they have made it clear. BJP leader and Assam Finance Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma who is in the eye of the storm due to the Bill, has cleared it that he is against the ideology of AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal and the steps taken by the BJP government is to safeguard the 17 seats that might go the AIUDF way due to the prevailing population pattern. I commend Dr. Sarma for calling a spade a spade. After Sarbananda Sonowal, he has taken the most of the fire by coming to the point and not hitting around the bush. Yes, the BJP is a political party, it is majorly Hindu-minded and it feels there is nothing wrong in safeguarding the Hindu vote bank.

The organisations against the bill have two options, first is to keep protesting, and that won’t bring in much to their plate. The second would be challenge the Bill in the court and expect that it would be struck down like the Illegal Migrants Determination Tribunal Act in 2005 thereby crowning Sarbananda Sonowal as the Jatiya Nayak (Community Hero), which at present situation makes him look like a community villain. Well, public memory is short and is very selfish in nature.

So, this talk of election lollipop holds ground only when you promise something and don’t deliver. Trying to deliver is not a gimmick. It shows that the BJP has been cornered by the people of Assam to start thinking and acting or get ready for a pack up. Both the state and the centre are aware of this and are trying everything to hold the ground and keep the vote banks intact.

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