Volte-Face on Poll Promises May Upset BJP Applecart in Assam

Published: 08th February 2015 05:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th February 2015 02:07 PM   |  A+A-

GUWAHATI: The BJP seems to be losing its ground in Assam. The saffron party had broken the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government’s stronghold in the state and bagged seven of the state’s 14 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, a massive anti-BJP mood is building in the state as it is being seen as going back on all its poll promises after coming to power at the Centre. All eyes are now on how the party fares in the municipal polls to be held on February 9, 2015.

The voters had warmed up to the BJP after it canvassed on three important state issues—the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants, construction of a dam on the river Subansiri and the India-Bangladesh land swap deal. Before the polls, the BJP had opposed the land deal and the dam’s construction, and pledged to drive out the illegal immigrants.

Addressing the Assamese people’s fear of being outnumbered by illegal immigrants, PM-elect Narendra Modi had thundered at a poll rally, “You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed.”  The influx has now assumed alarming proportions, even threatening to change the state’s demography. Muslims are the virtual kingmakers in four parliamentary constituencies and in a majority in at least seven of the state’s 28 districts.

But the BJP-led government at the Centre seems to have forgotten its promise, giving the Congress-AIUDF coalition in Assam enough fodder to attack it on. Chief Minister Gogoi had recently said, “The BJP comes across the illegal migrants only ahead of any elections.” However, the Centre has done nothing to address the issue.

What has further piqued the electorate is BJP’s U-turn on the land swap deal and the construction of the 2000-MW hydro-electric power project at Gerukamukh. The BJP was opposed to both ahead of the polls but within months of coming to power, it made a strong case for them. The BJP said while the land deal would benefit Assam in the long run, the Gerukamukh project would solve the issue of power in the state to a great extent.

The people were opposing the land agreement tooth-and-nail since it would lead to the transfer of enclaves, which lie within the territories of India and Bangladesh. India has 111 enclaves or around 17,000 acres of land within Bangladesh while the neighbouring country has 51 enclaves or around 7,000 acres within India. Hence, the fear among people was of losing around 10,000 acres of land. Assam will lose a substantial amount of its land in the transfer.

There have been widespread protests against the construction of the dam as some expert committee reports have highlighted a number of faults with its height and location. The reports said a dam of such a magnitude would have a devastating impact downstream. But the Centre has not budged from its stand despite public opinion being against this project.

The recent controversy that erupted after people from the Northeast living in Delhi were called “immigrants” in the BJP’s vision document for Delhi polls added further insult to injury. Massive protests were staged across Assam with political parties and various groups demanding an unconditional apology from the Prime Minister. The BJP was quick to say sorry for the “typographical” error, but has been no letup in the protests.

“The BJP exploited sentiments of the people. After they won, they forgot the people as evident from non-fulfilment of poll promises,” said Asom Gana Parishad president Atul Bora. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) also attacked the BJP for changing its colours like a “chameleon”. “They changed their stand on issues such as the Indo-Bangla land deal and the construction of the big dam. And how dare they insult the people of the Northeast by calling them immigrants? We urge them to rise above politics and solve the burning issues of the state,” said AASU president Shankar Prasad Roy.

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