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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Assam elections: BJP silent on CAA, chose to focus on schemes and target AIUDF

In 2019, the BJP had faced violent protests in Assam, leading to five deaths in police firing, after the Centre passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Parliament.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
Updated: May 3, 2021 9:03:04 am
Sarbanand Sonowal

The BJP, along with allies AGP and UPPL, has won the Assam Assembly elections and is set to become the first non-Congress party to form the government for a second time. What are the key takeaways from the elections?

CAA did not hurt BJP

In 2019, the BJP had faced violent protests in Assam, leading to five deaths in police firing, after the Centre passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Parliament. The BJP campaign in Assam carefully avoided playing up the CAA. While releasing its poll manifesto last month, party president J P Nadda did say that “CAA has been passed by Parliament …It will be implemented in letter and spirit.” The Congress as well as new regional parties tried their best to keep the CAA issue alive, with the Congress promising a law to repeal the Act, but the issue found little traction as the BJP avoided it during the campaign.

Congress-AIUDF alliance

The Congress tied up for the first time with MP Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which enjoys a large support base among Bengali-origin Muslims, or Miyas. The BJP constantly attacked the alliance — and Ajmal in particular — during the campaign, alleging that it represents a threat to the interests of indigenous communities from the Miya community. This polarised the votes to the BJP’s favour in most regions, while the alliance consolidated votes in the Muslim-dominated districts of Lower Assam.

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Bodoland vote

The Congress-led Mahajot’s alliance with influential Bodoland party, the BPF led by Hagrama Mohilary, a former ally of the BJP, was supposed to have boosted the alliance in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR). But in Sunday’s results, the three BPF ministers from the BJP-led government, now with the Congress-AIUDF, all lost their seats. The BJP, on the other hand, allied with the Bodoland party UPPL, which has in its fold popular student leaders who signed the recent Bodo Accord.

While the BJP contested four Assembly seats falling in the BTR, the UPPL contested the remaining eight. The two parties were also in ‘friendly’ contests in three seats. The UPPL’s emergence served a blow to Mohilary’s influence, challenging his stature as the face of Bodo politics for nearly 15 years.

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New regional parties

The election has been essentially a triangular contest involving the NDA, the Congress-led Mahajot, and an alliance of two new regional parties — Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal (RD) — formed in the backdrop of resentment against the CAA.

The AJP and RD, which chose not to ally with the Congress, fared poorly with only Akhil Gogoi winning, in Sivasagar. AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi, former general secretary of the AASU and the face of the anti-CAA protests, lost in both seats he contested.

The defeat raises question about the future of Assamese sub-regional nationalist politics in the face of the BJP’s brand of nationalistic politics.

*Note: In the 2021 pie chart for Kerala, the Election Commission lists 14.86% as “Others”, which may contain smaller UDF and LDF constituents. In the tables, UDF and LDF include all constituent parties.

Sops and schemes

The BJP has gained from implementation of several welfare schemes targeting various sections of society.

For instance, the Orunodoi scheme gives a monthly assistance of Rs 830 given to accounts of women members of marginalised families through a Direct Benefit Transfer procedure.

The government has said the scene benefits around 22 lakh women.

Another example is the dole-out scheme called Chah Bagicha Dhan Puraskar Mela in which lakhs of tea garden workers have received Rs 8,000 in their accounts since 2017-18, again through DBT. The government has released around Rs 400 crore to all eligible tea tribe community members — claimed to be around 7.5 lakh beneficiaries — in two instalments of Rs.2,500 each. In the third tranche, over Rs 230 crore has been transferred — Rs 3,000 each to individual accounts.

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