Assam: Muslim votes matter, BJP has edge in 5 seats

Assam: Muslim votes matter, BJP has edge in 5 seats

5 Assam constituencies — Karimganj, Silchar, Nagaon, Darrang-Udalguri and Diphu — will go to Lok Sabha elections on April 26

GUWAHATI: The spotlight will be on the Muslim voters when Assam goes to the polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 26.

People of five constituencies such as Karimganj, Silchar (both in southern Assam’s Bengali-majority Barak Valley), Nagaon, Darrang-Udalguri and Diphu are set to exercise their franchise. Nagaon is held by the Congress while the others are under the BJP.

Barring Diphu which is reserved for Scheduled Tribes, the others have sizeable Bengali-speaking Muslim populations. Bengali Hindus also have a large number of voters in Silchar and Karimganj seats.

While Karimganj leads with over 55.7% Muslim voters, Silchar has less than 40%, Nagaon 58%, and Darrang-Udalguri about 40%. Several Muslim-majority Assembly segments, which were parts of erstwhile Kaliabor (now Kaziranga) parliamentary seat, were added to the Nagaon seat following last year’s delimitation exercise, thereby substantially increasing the number of its Muslim voters.

As Kaliabor underwent massive changes in terms of demography, sitting MP Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress contested this election from the adjoining Jorhat seat.

A straight contest is on the cards between the ruling BJP and the Congress in all constituencies other than Nagaon. Nagaon is poised for a triangular contest among the Congress, the BJP and the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).

Despite having a large number of Muslim voters, the BJP managed to win this central Assam constituency four times – 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. This was primarily because of the division of Muslim votes. The Muslims had then voted for the Congress as well as the AIUDF. The Congress had stopped the BJP’s juggernaut in 2019 when the AIUDF did not contest.

The AIUDF fielded a strong candidate in Aminul Islam, who is an MLA, this time around. His main rivals will be sitting MP Pradyut Bordoloi of the Congress and Suresh Borah of the BJP.

The BJP is expected to win the Silchar seat but faces a stiff challenge from the Congress in Karimganj. The BJP replaced Silchar MP Rajdeep Roy with minister Parimal Suklabaidya and renominated sitting MP Kripanath Malla in Karimganj.

The contest in Silchar will be between Suklabaidya and the Congress’ Surya Kanta Sarkar. In Karimganj, the Congress’ Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury, who is a senior lawyer, is expected to give Malla a run for his money.

In past elections, the BJP had an advantage in both Silchar and Karimganj seats when Hindus were (and they still are) in a majority in Silchar while Muslims could not contest from Karimganj as it was reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC).

After delimitation, Silchar is now an SC-reserved seat while Karimganj became a general seat. It is unclear why their status was tweaked.

A large number of people from the valley are believed to have been left out of the National Register of Citizens. During campaigning recently, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma assured to solve the “D Voter” (doubtful voter) issue, particularly involving the Bengali Hindus, within six months.

The BJP is hardly facing any contest in the Diphu seat in Karbi Anglong district. The BJP’s advantage is that it rules the autonomous Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council.

The party is also expected to retain the Darrang-Udalguri seat. Half of the constituency straddles the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR). The BJP-United People’s Party Liberal combine is in power in the Bodoland Territorial Council which administers the BTR.

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