Of the 60 new BJP MLAs in the Assam assembly, Aminul Haque Laskar stands out for reasons that begin with his name. He is the lone Muslim to make it to the assembly on a BJP ticket, the sole BJP representative of the 1 crore-odd Muslim population of the state.
There is something else that he wears as a badge — the fact that he joined BJP on the same day and place as chief minister-in-waiting Sarbananda Sonowal.
“It was in 2011. Nitin Gadkari was BJP president and both of us had joined from the Asom Gana Parishad. I was a part of the All Assam Students’ Union and had joined AGP in 1995. But the party was going through tough times. I realised it would not make any sense for me to stay on if I really wanted to work for the people. I am basically of an anti-Congress mindset so BJP was the only choice for me. I could see that the party has a bright future,” says Laskar, who won from Sonai in Cachar, a constituency which has 98,000 Muslim voters out of a total of 1,58,000.
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Laskar (50), who works as a government contractor, is a Bengali. More than 95 per cent of the Muslims in his constituency speak Bangla, he says, as do 22,000 of the Hindus. Laskar says that there are “misgivings” that his community has about BJP. “But that is changing now. Here and in many of the surrounding constituencies, Muslims have voted for BJP. It is not the indigenous Muslims who are biased against BJP, it is those who have come from Bangladesh,” Laskar says.
His election affidavit lists several criminal cases against this graduate. These include criminal intimidation, trespass and rioting. Given his long association with Sonowal and his credentials as the sole Muslim face in the party, does he hope to make it to the new ministry?
“People have made me a winner. The rest is for the CM to decide. Whatever he decides, I will obey. You see, I am not minority first. I am a BJP MLA first,” he says.