Assam polls: Congress banks on development, BJP raises Bangladeshi issue

Guwahati, April 9 (IANS) As Assam readies for the second phase of polls on Monday, covering 61 constituencies, political parties in the state have been busy in last ditch efforts to woo the electorate in every way.

While the Congress has been highlighting the development it has ushered in during its 15-year rule in the insurgency-ravaged state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is playing on the threat of Moulana Badaruddin Ajmal becoming the state’s deputy chief minister in the event of a Congress-All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) government in the state.

“People have witnessed the development our government has brought in the past 15 years. In 2001, the state was in a financial mess and people were scared to go out of their homes after dusk. Now people are roaming around freely and the financial situation has improved to a great extent,” says Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Anjan Dutta.

“The violence is now over and it is the Congress government that has brought most of the insurgent outfits to the negotiating table in the last 15 years,” he said, asserting that the party is going to form the government again in the state.

“People have seen the BJP government at the Centre in the last two years. If they are so interested in Assam why then has the government curtailed the special category status for Assam and slashed funds under different schemes?” Dutta asked.

The APCC president refuted allegations of any understanding with the AIUDF and claimed that it is the BJP which has a tacit understanding with the AIUDF.

The saffron party, which had made it big in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in Assam by winning seven of the total 14 Lok Sabha seats, has intensified its attack on the ruling Congress party regarding the infiltration from Bangladesh. The BJP has said the party will seal the Indo-Bangladesh border if it comes to power in Assam.

The party raised the issue of unemployment of the state and said that in 2001 there were only four lakh unemployed in Assam, which has gone up to 23 lakh now. It said the Congress government has failed to create job opportunities in the state.

The BJP has been asking the people in almost all its rallies not to vote for the Congress, claiming it might threaten the indigenous Assamese identity by paving way for a ‘Bangladeshi’ (as the AIUDF is often referred to in Assam due to the party’s popularity among Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers in Assam) to become the deputy chief minister.

The substantial change in the state’s demographic pattern in the recent past due to the illegal infiltration from the other side of the border has already caused concern among the indigenous people that a ‘Bangladeshi’ may become the chief minister.

What has made the people buy the BJP’s argument is that while the Congress has been taking on the BJP aggressively in almost all its rallies, the party has maintained a soft stand on the AIUDF. Besides, AIUDF legislators in the Assam assembly have also voted for the two candidates nominated by Congress for the Rajya Sabha.

“We are ready to sit in the opposition for another 50 years but we are not ready to join hands with the AIUDF to form a government in Assam. The people of Assam have understood the tacit understanding between the Congress and the AIUDF. The high turnout of voters in the first phase (April 4) is an indication that people want a change,” said BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal.

While the Congress is going to polls in Assam with a regional party – United Peoples’ Party (UPP), the BJP has forged an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), the ruling party in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC)-a sixth schedule autonomous council that runs administration in four districts of Bodoland in Assam.

The BJP is also highlighting the boost to connectivity in the region after the party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power in 2014.

People in Assam’s Barak Valley got the first ever direct train to Guwahati, 68 years after India’s independence. The Silchar-Guwahati Fast Passenger train was flagged off on September 21 last year. Subsequently, the services of Kolkata-Guwahati Kanchenjunga Express and New Delhi-Guwahati Sampark Kranti Express trains were extended to Silchar in the valley, which comprises of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts.

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