Diphu: The demand for an autonomous state has turned out to be a major political issue for residents of the Autonomous District constituency in Assam, polling for which will be held during the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 18.
The constituency consists of two autonomous districts, namely Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong, and is home to various tribal groups such as Karbi, Dimasa, Kuki, Biate, Hmar and Naga Rengma, among many others. The seat is reserved for scheduled tribes (STs).
Autonomous District is traditionally considered a bastion for the Congress as sitting MP and party veteran Biren Singh Engti (76) is eyeing his sixth victory from here. In 2014, Engti won the elections defeating Joy Ram Engleng of the BJP by 24,000 votes.
Both Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao are among the 250 most backward districts of the country.
This time, Harensingh Bey, a former leader of UPDS, a militant outfit, and Holiram Terang, former Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) minister, are contesting against Engti on BJP and Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) tickets, respectively, thereby giving a stiff challenge to the Congress.
Criticising the BJP for misleading the people of the constituency regarding their main demand of an autonomous state, Daniel Terang, propaganda secretary, ASDC, and former deputy chairman, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, said, “We are demanding an autonomous state covering Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts. This is a constitutional demand. The BJP and Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured the people here to fulfill our demand during the last election. But even after five years, nothing has materialised. If our candidate wins this time, we will raise the issue on the floor of Parliament.”
Commenting on the other issues of the party, Terang said that the party will also oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. “How can BJP support the bill, which is totally against the people of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills here? We won’t allow the bill to be converted into a law,” he added.
Criticising the sitting Congress MP, Biren Singh Engti, for allegedly not doing anything for the betterment of the people of the constituency, the senior ASDC leader added: “Biren Singh Engti has been MP from this constituency since 1977, except for a brief period when he was out of power. He has not raised a single word in Parliament. Everybody knows him as a ‘sleeping MP’.”
Referring to a media report, Terang said, “He has already admitted that he has been a sleeping MP and even if he voted to power, he will keep on sleeping in Parliament. He was quoted like this in a prominent newspaper here.” He also termed BJP as its main political opponent this election.
Expressing satisfaction over the response that the Congress candidate in the constituency is receiving from the masses, Chandra Singh Terron, vice-president, Karbi Anglong District Congress Committee, has said that like previous occasions, Biren Singh Engti will win this time too.
“We are very happy to receive such an overwhelming response from all sections of society. People are not happy with the BJP for its stand regarding the CAB. So it will undoubtedly benefit the Congress party,” Terron added.
Criticising the BJP for fielding UPDS leader Harensingh Bey as its candidate from the constituency, the Congress leader said that people are aware of Bey’s previous records as a militant outfit leader. “People won’t vote for a militant leader,” he added.
On the allegations that Engti keeps on sleeping in Parliament, Chandra Singh Terron said, “It seems that he keeps on sleeping during meetings, in Parliament, etc. But even then, he is aware of everything what is happening around him. Because of his increasing age, it seems that he keeps on sleeping, practically which is not true at all.”
Banking on development, Ratan Terron, district president, BJP and EM, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, said that the party is very happy to witness its increasing popularity in the Autonomous District Parliamentary seat.
“Considering the all-round development work carried out by the BJP across the country, including in the hills district of the state, voters are quite happy to be associated with the party. Gone are the days when our opponents were of the view that lotus won’t bloom in hills,” he added.
The Karbi Students’ Association (KSA), a front-ranking students’ body of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts of the state, has termed the ongoing election campaigning process a “funfare” by the political parties ignoring the main focus on election issues.
“All the political parties have failed to focus on core political issues this election. Legitimate demand for autonomous state has been ignored by the political parties. Yes, they are saying lots of things on this, but the seriousness on the topic is missing. Parties are playing with the sentiment of the people of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts. Same is the situation with the CAB and the D-voter issue,” Mirjeng Kro, the vice-president of KSA, said.
Kro also criticised the BJP for its failure to implement the Uniform Civil Code, withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), etc. “We have seen ASDC, Congress and this time the BJP too. Nobody is interested to solve our issues,” he added.