A week after the Army chief’s controversial remarks comparing the growth of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) with that of the BJP, the AIUDF chief has proposed to meet him over tea and sweets and make him “aware of the facts”.
At a seminar in Delhi on February 21, General Bipin Rawat had said, “There is a party called AIUDF, if you look at. they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP has grown over the years. When we talk of Jana Sangh with two Members of Parliament and where they have reached, AIUDF is moving at a faster pace in the state of Assam. Finally, what will be the state of Assam, we will have to take a call.” The remarks have been criticised as being political and displaying partisanship not expected in a public forum by the Army chief.
AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal, a Lok Sabha MP, is in Delhi. “I will visit him and drink tea with him and eat mithai too with him, despite being a diabetic, and apprise him of the facts about the AIUDF. I will, as we don’t have any guilt about who we are are and what we do. He must be made aware of the facts.”
Ajmal and some colleagues met Home Minister Rajnath Singh Tuesday with a two-page memorandum, and asked for a “clarification” of the statement of the Army chief and that the “confusion” created by it be dispelled. Ajmal said the meeting was also meant to convey the “great shock and surprise” over the fact that the Army chief “has not been correctly informed regarding the role of the AIUDF in the public life of Assam, as well as the facts of illegal infiltration in the state”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ajmal said he and his 13 MLAs plan to meet the President and register their concern about the Army chief’s comments, and also meet the PM “when Parliament convenes” as well as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. “We have utmost confidence in the Army for its ability to stay vigilant and guard our borders so we can sleep peacefully and educate our children and go about our lives. We are grateful to them. That is why such a remark by the Army chief puzzles us,” Ajmal said. “I cannot guess what he meant by saying what he did, he must explain that.”
Ajmal emphasised that they were “a secular and democratic political party functioning within the Constitution of India and laws framed thereunder. We are elected to the state’s legislature and Parliament and represent and serve the people of Assam.”
Of the 126 assembly seats in Assam, the AIUDF, formed in 1985, won 10 in 2006, 18 in 2011 and 13 in 2016. “It was the BJP that registered a 600% increase in strength in 2014. Surely, that deserves attention, not us,” Ajmal said. “If the insinuation is that illegal migrants from Bangladesh are voting for us, that is wrong. If there are so many illegals, how did they get the right to vote, those documents? We have never been in power. Those who are in power now and who have been in power must explain. If they are crossing borders. what is the BSF or the Army doing?”he said.
“We have always been against illegal migration and gave a call to shoot them on the border, something that caused ire among our supporters. But I am all for not fencing but a total sealing of the border, a wall. The BJP must also answer how many foreigners they have been able to root out and send back, ever since they came to power, on precisely this issue?”
Commenting on “22 meetings” between India and Bangladesh since the current government came to power, Ajmal said, “PM Modi has also visited Bangladesh. Why don’t they bring it up formally with them if this is such a problem? That has, surprisingly, never been broached.”
On the government being told strictly by the Supreme Court to prepare the second and final draft of the National Register of Citizens, Ajmal said his party has always supported the need to restrict illegal migration and wants the NRC sorted as soon as possible, “so that harassment of legals stops”. “The AIUDF did not exist then but the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, which I belonged to, had insisted in a big public meeting in Nagaon, as early as in 1960, that the National Register of Citizens be formed and finalised at the very earliest.”