As a first priority after coming to power, the former mayor of Guwahati in Assam wants to address the issue of water scarcity in the city
Guwahati: From contesting on an Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) ticket in 2011 to fighting the elections again as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in 2019, Queen Oja has come a long way in her political journey.
But eight years down the line, Oja, a former mayor of Guwahati, still feels that development is the key to a city’s growth. “People are seeing the ongoing development, and that is what they want. The picture is clear from the panchayat election results,” said Oja, who was selected as the saffron party’s candidate for the prestigious Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency in Assam.
Gauhati goes to polls, along with three other constituencies of Assam, during the third phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on April 23. The constituency consists of 10 assembly segments and has a total of 17 contestants in fray.
This year, the Gauhati parliamentary constituency will see an interesting battle with two women from two major political parties pitted against each other. The Congress is fielding noted film and television personality and entrepreneur Bobbeeta Sharma against BJP’s Oja. Besides Oja and Sharma, another woman -- Junmoni Devi Khaund -- is in the poll fray. Khaund is contesting the elections as an independent candidate.
“Everyone is aware of India’s development, Assam’s development and the Northeast’s development. This can only be done by Modiji, and no one else,” said Oja, who belongs to a high-profile business family of the state.
Commenting on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill issue, Oja said, “It is understood that our honourable chief minister [Sarbananda Sonowal] will never do anything against Assam. Citizenship (Amendment) Bill came out before also, following which Panchayat elections took place in the state, and we won it.”
Regarding AGP severing ties with BJP in protest against the contentious legislation, Oja said, “Yes, they broke the alliance, but they joined us again.”
Despite major protests rocking the region over the issue, Oja is confident of her party’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections. “On 23rd [April], people will show whether they want CAB or not, whether they want development or not.”
Oja slammed the opposition Congress for stirring an unnecessary controversy regarding her educational qualification. “This confusion was not from my end, but from Congress. It is propaganda, I was born and brought up in Guwahati; I was also a mayor and have been associated with several institutions. The Congress does not have anything against the AGP, BJP or me, and that is why they are making up this issue. On April 23 [as the constituency goes to vote] we will show them how much this issue matters.”
The BJP candidate further said, “When Manmohan Singh, who is also the Rajya Sabha member from Assam, was the Prime Minister, he had done nothing for the state. But Modi on the other hand, he came to the state 25 times, and has done a lot for the Assamese people.”
Likewise, on the independent candidate for Gauhati Lok Sabha seat, Upamanyu Hazarika’s mudslinging on the BJP, Oja said, “Charging against each other during elections is not the right thing to do, as eventually it hampers their own image. He was not in Assam for many years; I don’t know how much he knows about Assam’s problems. Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is the only issue, and we have already shown it in the panchayat elections.”
Replacing firebrand BJP leader and three-time MP from Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency, Bijoya Chakraborty, Oja said, “She was [like] my sister…I will try to do all which she couldn’t do. Because even today, wherever I go, people talk about her. I will try to walk in her footsteps and gain even more popularity than her.”
She said, during her stint as the mayor for Guwahati, she introduced a campaign similar to PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat. She focused on the issue of water, roads and drainage, which till date remains a major agenda in her campaign. As her first priority after coming to power, Oja wants to address the issue of water scarcity. “There is a huge water scarcity and addressing this issue is very important,” she added.
“Assam is a diverse hub with people of different religion, different language and different community. We call it ramdhenu (rainbow), having seven different colours. Likewise, we have different people and communities, and together we will grow,” she said while appealing the voters.
“If you want Modiji to win, then do vote for me,” she added.