Everyone from Delhi to Dispur is on the same page on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), senior BJP leader and Silchar MP Rajdeep Roy said as Assam’s 39 seats vote in the second phase.
“It is a big issue. CAA has been our central issue. Thats where journey of the BJP started in Barak,” Roy told EastMojo on Wednesday. He won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by defeating Congress’ top leader Sushmita Dev.
The controversial law led to widespread protests in the state, including in Upper Assam, which voted in the first phase of polling for 47 seats on March 27 when approximately 80% voters turned out. But it’s an emotive issue among the Bengali speaking Hindus of the Barak Valley, many of whom migrated in the aftermath of partition.
The 13 districts going to polls in the second phase include the crucial three districts of Barak Valley in Southern Assam. Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi account for 15 Assembly constituencies. There are five Assembly constituencies in the hill districts of Karbi Anglong, Karbi Anglong West and Dima Hasao. The remaining 19 constituencies are spread over Hojai, Nagaon, Darrang, Udalguri, Morigaon, Kamrup and Nalbari districts.
According to the Election Commission of India figures, there are 345 candidates in fray in the second phase and 73.44 lakh voters who will decide their fate.
“There is a not even a single election where we have not mentioned about protection to persecuted people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Roy said.
“Bureaucrats in the Home ministry are working. Everyone from Delhi to Dispur is on the same page. Rules will be framed not just for Assam but for the persecuted people in the whole country,” he said.
There have been speculations that the CAA rules have been kept in abeyance because of the polls in Assam where a large section, especially in the Brahmaputra Valley, have been opposed to the law. The BJP leadership, which has shied away from making the new law a big election issue in the Brahmaputra Valley, has cited COVID-19 as the reason for not framing the rules.
The Congress continues to oppose the law as it tries to tap on the angst against the law in the Brahmaputra Valley.
On Tuesday, as Rahul Gandhi cancelled his plans to visit Barak Valley because of bad weather, he release a video where he again attacked the law. “We will not let CAA be implemented in Assam. That is our first guarantee. This is an attack on Assam. It is an attack on your language, history and culture,” Gandhi, sporting an anti-CAA gamusa is seen saying in the video as he read out Congress’ four other guarantees.
Gandhi also promised implementation of Article 244 (A) which allows for creation of autonomous state within Assam, a demand of hill district tribals.
Meanwhile, the Congress’ stand on CAA caused issues for the party in the Bengali speaking Barak Valley, especially in the Lok Sabha polls. The losses may be reversed in the ongoing Assembly Polls as Congress is contesting the elections in alliance with the AIUDF and others. Badruddin Ajmal-led party has influence in Barak Valley.
The BJP-AGP had won 25 seats out of these 39 in the 2016 Assembly polls. The seats that the BJP won include Ratabari, Patharkandi, Silchar, Sonai, Dholai, Udharbond, Barkhola and Katigora in Barak Valley, Haflong, Bokajan, Howraghat, Diphu and Baithalangso in hill districts and Rangiya, Nalbari, Sipajhar, Mangaldoi, Jagiroad, Morigaon, Raha, Nowgong, Hojai and Lumding in other districts. Its alliance partner the AGP won in Kamalpur and Barhampur.
BJP-led alliance has multiple hurdles in this phase. It denied tickets to some of its bigwigs, including Silchar MLA Dilp Paul and Hojai MLA Shiladitya Dev. While Dev was cajoled to not contest as an independent, Paul still went ahead and filed his nomination.
“In the entire state so many sitting MLAs have not been given ticket. There are three in my district alone. Nobody is contesting as independent. He is the only one. Rank and file of BJP is not bothered. He will get minuscule number of votes,” Roy said, adding that the people of the Barak are happy the way BJP has ushered in development and ended alienation, which was being practised by the erstwhile Congress governments.
Of the 15 Barak Valley seats, the Congress won three while the AIUDF won four. The alliance could make things difficult for the BJP this time as it will have to get past the combined might of the two parties.
“It appears tough for the BJP,” said a senior BJP leader who was among the founders of the party.
Roy, however, claims chemistry between the BJP and the people would trump arithmetic of the Congress-led alliance. “We will get double figure seats in Barak,” Roy claimed.