With campaigning for by-election to three assembly constituencies coming to a close today afternoon, the ruling Congress party in the state is banking on a language card chief minister Tarun Gogoi played two days ago to outwit the BJP and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), especially in view of majority voters there belonging to a linguistic minority.
Gogoi had on September 9 revoked an order of November 2013 in which the state government had apparently sought to maintain Assamese as official language in the Barak Valley, which has been hailed by the Bengali-speaking population who are in a majority there. While both Silchar and Lakhipur LACs are in the Barak Valley, Muslims of erstwhile East Bengal and East Pakistan origin are in a majority in Jamunamukh in Nagaon district.
While the Assam government has withdrawn its circular PLC 14/2011/39 of November 30, 2013 regarding use of Assamese as official language in the Barak Valley districts with immediate effect, it said that the circular had created confusion in some circles as it actually was not meant for Barak Valley. Tuesday’s fresh circular (PLC14/2011/47) said that the official language of Barak Valley (Bengali) will continue to be used for all official works.
The circular issued at the directive of chief minister Gogoi came just ahead of the by-polls, prompting the opposition parties to complain that it was directly intended at garnering votes in the three assembly constituencies. The AGP and BJP even accused Gogoi of playing the divisive card to woo a section of voters.
Acid test for BJP
By-election to the three assembly segments will be an acid test for the BJP which had won seven of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats in May. Of the three assembly segments, the BJP polled highest (18371 votes more than Congress) votes in Silchar, while it had come second after Congress in Lakhipur. In Jamunamukh however the BJP was a poor third with the AIUDF securing 46,000 votes more than the Congress.
Given this scenario, all three parties are likely to win one each, provided the Congress does not improve its position dramatically in Silchar. BJP’s new state unit president Siddhartha Bhattacharyya however claims that the saffron party will win both Silchar and Lakhipur. The Congress on the other hand claims it will win all three seats, though the fact remains that Jamunamukh is a sold bastion of the AIUDF.
Though altogether 25 candidates are in the fray for the three seats, the main contest will remain confined among the Congress, BJP and AIUDF. While Sirajuddin Ajmal, younger brother of AIUDF supremo Badruddin Ajmal had won from Jamunamukh LAC in the 2011 assembly elections, the party has now fielded Badruddin’s younger son Abdur Rahim Ajmal. The fourth Ajmal into politics, Abdur Rahim’s elder brother Abdur Rahman Ajmal is also an MLA.
By-election to the three assembly constituencies – Silchar, Jamunamukh and Lakhipur – in Assam is being held along with 31 other assembly segments and three Lok Sabha seats spread over nine states on September 13. While Silchar and Jamunamukh seats fell vacant after sitting MLAs Sushmita Dev (Cong) and Sirajuddin Ajmal (AIUDF) respectively were elected to Lok Sabha in May this year, Lakhipur MLA DP Gowala (Cong) had passed away four months ago.