Home Minister Amit Shah Saturday set the tone for the BJP’s 2021 Assam election campaign with a swipe against newly-formed political parties, the launch of a raft of educational projects, and outreach to the Vaishnavite community.
Promising employment and industries, Shah said “andolan” (protests) had brought nothing to Assam—a likely reference to the massive anti-CAA agitation that erupted last year in the state.
“They [new parties] can never form government. They want to ruin BJP’s votes and help the Congress win… They can do nothing. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modiji’s leadership, the BJP will form government in Assam with full majority,” he said at a foundation stone-laying ceremony in Kamrup district’s Amingaon.
Shah was seen as referring to the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP)—formed under the aegis of the two most powerful student-youth bodies of the state, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP)—and the Raijor Dal, formed by peasant rights organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiiti and led by the jailed Akhil Gogoi. Both new parties owe their genesis to the the anti-CAA agitation.
“Tell me, those who do andolan or the Congress party, which fires bullets on youths of Assam, can they ever bring investment and industry to Assam?” Shah said. “I want to ask what has Assam gained through andolan [protests]? Has Assam developed, was employment generated? Did people of Assam get health services? Did people get jobs? Did Assam’s infrastructure develop? The only thing that happened was that Assam youths got martyred.”
Elections to the 126-member Assam Legislative Assembly will be held early next year.
The AJP, meanwhile, put out a statement Saturday evening, asking who was responsible for bringing in the CAA despite opposition in Assam and consequently forcing its people to come out in protest.
Shah said Assam had two major issues—infiltration and floods. “You tell me, can the Congress and other parties stop infiltration? Infiltration can be stopped only by the BJP government. Infiltration affects our culture, our literature, takes away opportunity from youths and hampers our development.”
Focusing on Assam’s Vaishnavite heritage, Shah laid the foundation stone for a Rs 188-crore project to develop and beautify Bardowa Than, the birthplace of the revered Vaishnavite reformer Srimanta Sankardev.
State of flux
Amit Shah’s comments come at a time of churn in Assam's politics. The new parties Shah is talking about have made the controversial citizenship law the fulcrum of their political rhetoric. And as they seek to build on the massive anti-CAA protests of last year, Opposition Congress finds itself in an unenviable position. With veteran leader Tarun Gogoi dead, the party is struggling to overcome internal squabbles and put up a strong face in the polls. The Congress is also looking to form a grand alliance against the BJP.
He ceremonially distributed financial assistance of Rs 2.5 lakh each to 8,000 namghars (Vaishnavite prayer halls) under the Asom Darshan scheme. The namghars will be developed as community centres and the total amount earmarked for the project is Rs 200 crore.
He said: “I want to congratulate the Chief Minister [Sarbananda Sonowal] and the Finance Minister [Himanta Biswa Sarma]. Because of the work that you have done, in the interiors of Assam’s villages, people who once spoke the language of separatism will now be united through bhakti. The message of namghars, the message of Guru Sankardev, will unite Assam with India and the world.”
The Home Minister laid the foundation stone for a super-speciality medical college being set up at a cost of Rs 755 crore in Guwahati. He also ceremonially launched the construction work of nine law colleges at Diphu, Silchar, Dhubri, Dibrugarh, North Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Nalbari, Rangia and Raha.
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