Barpeta: With electioneering gaining momentum in Barpeta Parliamentary constituency in Assam, polling for which will be held during the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 23, candidates of all leading political parties have intensified their campaigning.
When the EastMojo team visited various parts of the constituency, traditionally considered a Congress bastion with a partial Left vote bank, some of the perennial problems like underdevelopment, flood and erosion, unemployment, lack of proper communication systems echoed again in the run-up to D-Day. However, this time, the issue of ‘D voters’ or ‘doubtful voters’ concerning the minority communities and the Hindu Bengalis will make or break the fate of candidates.
Barpeta Parliamentary seat consists of 10 assembly segments, namely Abhayapuri North, Abhayapuri South, Patacharkuchi, Barpeta, Jania, Baghbar, Sarukhetri, Chenga, Dharmapur and Bongaigaon. Of these, four are in possession of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), five are with the Congress and one with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
The constituency was with veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Uddhab Barman for two consecutive terms starting 1991 and 1996. Except these two terms, Barpeta has the permanent seat for the Congress party from 1951 to 2009. In the 2014 elections, the constituency was won by Sirajuddin Ajmal of the AIUDF.
Going by records, the constituency is likely to witness a close fight between the AIUDF and the Congress party. However, the BJP-AGP alliance candidate in Barpeta constituency, Kumar Dipak Das, who is a former Rajya Sabha MP, is likely to give a stiff challenge to Congress candidate Abdul Khaleque, Jania MLA, and AIUDF nominee Hafiz Rafiqul Islam.
Talking to EastMojo, Kumar Dipak Das said, “Barpeta constituency is an undeveloped area. We have to work on it. We must work together to solve perennial problems like flood, unemployment, etc. We must try to develop Barpeta a proper market for its agricultural produce. Farmers here earn less due to various problems in the area. Lack of proper communication is one of the prominent issues here this time.”
Coming down heavily on the Congress, Das alleged that the party has tried to divide society on the basis of religion. “Only because of the Congress, hatred in society has increased manifold over the years,” he added.
The former AGP MP also stressed on proper industrialisation in the area. He also expressed serious concern over the failure of the representatives from Barpeta for not being able to extend the railway lines to Barpeta.
On the D-voter issue, Das urged the authorities concerned to solve the problem soon. “No Indian citizens should be harassed unnecessarily. However, no immigrant national will be allowed to stay here,” he said.
Announcing that the Hindu Bengali voters of the constituency will think twice before exercising their democratic rights on April 23, the All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Federation, a leading body of the Hindu Bengalis residing in Assam, said that their community will play crucial role in the Lok Sabha election in Assam.
Ratan Kumar Sen, working president, All Assam Bengali Youth Students Federation, Central Committee, said, “We, the Hindu Bengali people, of the state are struggling a lot in the name of D voters. Each and every political party, be it AGP, Congress or the BJP, is taking advantage in the name of D-voters.”
Severely criticising the political parties, Sen said, “Even after having over 50 lakh Hindu Bengalis, not a single political party has nominated a single Hindu Bengali voter this election in the Brahmaputra Valley. These parties have committed political murder of the Hindu Bengalis.
Terming Hindu Bengali voters a crucial factor in electioneering in Assam, Sen further said, “Undoubtedly, Hindu Bengali voters will play a crucial role in the electioneering process in Assam, including in Barpeta constituency. This time, we are yet to decide to which party we will vote for. We will vote those candidates who will give us in writing to raise their voice in Parliament to solve our problems, especially the D-voter tag. Barpeta Parliamentary constituency has over 2 lakh Hindu Bengali voters and we are a deciding factor here.”
Phatik Chandra Saha (89), who was tagged a D-voter in 1995, said, “I have been born and brought up here. I have all documents to prove my nationality. Except me, everyone in my family are respected citizens of the country.”
Like Das, Prabhawati Saha (70) has also been termed as D-voter. Like them, there are many in the constituency.
Reiterating that the Hindu Bengali voters will follow different tactics while casting their votes, son of Sephali Saha (62), a D voter, said, “We are struggling a lot due to the D-voter tag. We will all vote for the candidate who will help us in removing this tag. My mother has all related documents. All of her eight brothers and sisters are genuine citizens of the country. But my mother is struggling with the D-voter tag. It’s totally illegal. We are absolutely helpless.”
Considering the BJP-AGP candidate as their main opponent in this election, the AIUDF feels that the D-voter fiasco will adversely affect the BJP-supported candidate this time, Firoz Ahmed, vice-president, Barpeta district committee, AIUDF, said, “D-voters, NRC and flood and erosion are some of the prominent problems faced by the people of Barpeta constituency. We have been struggling with the D-voter problem for the past 25 years. We are also fighting 13 cases in the Supreme Court. D-voter issue will definitely affect the ruling party in government.”