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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Looking east, with sensitivity

Election in Assam hinges on issues of development and protection of cultural identity.

Written by Gaurav Bhatia |
Updated: March 27, 2021 12:11:37 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares stage with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at a poll rally in Assam. (Source: Assam BJP)

The people of Assam have shown faith in the “Look East” vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The last five years have laid the foundation of the state’s development. As BJP President J P Nadda said while releasing the party’s “Sankalp Patra” in Guwahati, these “strides of growth” will become a “leap of progress” in the next five years.

For the BJP, the Sankalp Patra is not just another document. It is an oath of its commitment to Assam’s growth, a comprehensive development plan for the state founded on the credo of “Suraksha, Samriddhi and Sanskriti”.

Under Sarbananda Sonowal’s leadership, Assam is witnessing a pro-incumbency wave that values the politics of vision and negates the politics of division. It has changed from the times the borders used to be neglected. The cultural annihilation that took place under successive Congress governments is a thing of the past and has been replaced with the mantra of cultural preservation to fulfil the aspirations of Aatmanirbhar Assam.

The Congress believed in porous borders, jeopardising national security for their petty vote bank politics. Acting on the belief that a safe Assam means safe India, the state’s BJP government has curbed cross border influx. This is also based on the party’s doctrine of zero compromise on national security.

The seriousness of the problem led the Supreme Court to intervene. It observed that the influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh into Assam had led to a perceptible change in the state’s demography, reducing the Assamese people to a minority in their own state. The unchecked influx was a contributory factor behind the outbreak of insurgency in Assam, which has now been controlled. This illegal migration not only affected the people of Assam but could have even undermined our national security.

This government has prioritised the empowerment of women and recognised “nari shakti” in the land of Kamakhya Devi. With the Centre’s help, it has disbursed loans amounting to Rs 14,000 crore to 40 lakh women under the Mudra Yojana. Thirty-five lakh beneficiaries have received gas cylinders under the PM’s Ujjwala Yojana.

Another major issue in elections is the welfare of workers in tea gardens. The people of Assam have not failed to take note of the seasonal leaders of the Opposition plucking tea leaves off-season. They have not forgotten the Congress government’s apathy for the tea workers. In fact, in 2018, the Supreme Court reprimanded the past Congress government on this count in IUF Workers’ Assn. v. Union of India. “We find that workmen, who worked for about 20 years have not been paid their wages. Their condition is pitiable and some of them have resorted to commit suicide,” it said.

Appreciating the approach of the incumbent BJP government, the Court noted: “The state government has responded to the proposal in a most positive manner. Shri Maninder Singh, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the State of Assam has stated that there are about 16,133 retired workers and staff of the corporation, many of whom had retired over 20 years back and 839 retired persons but continuing in service.” The state government has launched the Assam Chah Bagicha Dhan Puraskar Yojana, under which Rs 8,000 has been transferred to the account of tea garden workers through the DBT method. About 8 lakh workers have benefited from the scheme. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allocated Rs 1,000 crore for the tea garden workers in this year’s Union budget.

The citizenry of Assam is clearly flabbergasted by the hypocrisy and doublespeak of the Congress. Among the “five guarantees” in its manifesto is the repeal of the Citizenship Amendment Act. The promises made in the party’s manifestoes during the assembly elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, to be fulfilled in 10 days, remain unfulfilled. Isn’t this a scam? Moreover, it seems that Congress leaders lack a basic understanding of the Constitution, especially the distribution of legislative powers under it. Why else would they promise to repeal central legislation through a state assembly?

They should also remember the words of ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who while referring to the Citizenship Amendment Bill in December 2003, said: “After the Partition of our country, minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution, and it is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people – these unfortunate people – to seek refuge in our country, our approach to granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal.”

Congress’s former President Rahul Gandhi recently shocked the conscience of Assam when he said, “An attack on Ajmal is an attack on Assam”. He seems to have forgotten that the late Congress leader Tarun Gogoi had once denounced Ajmal. The Congress today seems to be leaderless, rudderless and sans ideology trying to find its identity with the crutches of AIUDF.

The BJP believes in protecting and preserving Assam’s cultural identity. It values the legacy of Mahapurush Srimanta Shankardev, Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi (who was conferred Bharat Ratna by the NDA government in 1999) and Bhupen Hazarika (who was conferred the Bharat Ratna by the NDA in 2019).

Assam wants development coupled with the protection of its cultural identity. It is, therefore, determined to give the BJP government another term to take forward the “leap of growth” under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Sarbananda Sonowal.

The writer is National Spokesperson, BJP

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