March 24, 2021 2:50:22 am
The BJP on Tuesday released its manifesto for Assam, promising a “corrected National Register of Citizens (NRC)” if it came to power. Among its 10 commitments, the party also mentioned several developmental measures, including a promise to solve Assam’s flood problem, as well as protection of indigenous rights.
Unveiling its “Sankalpa Patra” in Guwahati, BJP national president J P Nadda said, “We are committed to bringing a corrected NRC to secure and protect Assam. We will protect genuine Indian citizens and detect illegal infiltrators so that Assam can remain Assam’s.”
The final Assam NRC – which excluded 19 lakh people – was published on August 31, 2019. Following that, the Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government, alleging wrongful exclusions and inclusions, maintained that it will not accept the NRC in its current form. Since then, the list has remained in a limbo, with those excluded not yet issued rejection orders with which they can appeal at the state’s Foreigners’ Tribunals.
While in neighbouring West Bengal, which is also going to polls, the BJP promised to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA at the first Cabinet meeting if it came to power, the law, which caused widespread protests in Assam, found no mention in the manifesto.
Although the CAA was passed by the Narendra Modi government in December 2019, it is yet to come into force as its rules are yet to be notified. While the BJP has stayed silent on the matter in Assam, the Congress has made it one of its main poll planks.
When asked about it, Nadda said the CAA had “been passed by Parliament” and “it would be implemented in letter and spirit”. On the Congress’s poll promise to nullify the law, he said the law was a “central legislation” and by voting in Assam, “a state legislation cannot change a central legislation”.
“This could either be lack of knowledge or a way to dupe the public of Assam,” he said.
There was also no mention of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which states “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards” to the Assamese people”. Implementation of the clause was promised by the Sonowal government after the CAA protests broke out. Although a high-level committee was formed to compile recommendations for its implementation, there has been little movement since the panel submitted its report in February 2020.
Asked about Clause 6, Nadda said, “It is under process and we are committed to it.”
Nadda said the BJP’s aim in Assam has always been protection of “Jaati, Maati and Bheti [community, home and hearth]” or indigenous interests. To that end, the party promised a delimitation exercise to protect the political rights of the people, a task force to recover Sattra land from “illegal encroachment”, financial aid of Rs 2.5 lakh to all Naamghars or Vaishnavite community halls) and places of worship of tribals, and distribution of land pattas (titles) to all landless Indian citizens in Assam.
With a special focus on women voters, the party said it will increase the dole out of Orunudoi – a DBT scheme aimed at women members of underprivileged families – from Rs 830 to Rs 3,000. Thirty lakh families will be brought under it.
The party also promised “flood-free” Assam if voted to power. “Under Mission Brahmaputra, we will look for new ways to protect Assam from the devastation of annual floods,” Nadda said. “We will approach it scientifically – build big reservoirs to collect water from the river and its tributaries.” A mechanism of dredging of the river from Dhubri (in western Assam) to Sadiya (in eastern Assam) is part of the plan.
Other points include Mission Bala Unnayan, or free education for every child in government schools and free bicycles for students in and above Class 8, and the Assam Aahar Atmanirbharta Yojana, which will drive the state towards self-sufficiency in essential food items.
“We have worked tirelessly in Assam, whether it is about protection of culture, security of state or commitment to prosperity,” said Nadda.
He said Assam will become India’s fastest job creator in the country and promised two lakh government jobs (out of which one lakh will be provided before March 31, 2022). Another commitment is to make Assam India’s entrepreneurial hub. Ten lakh youth entrepreneurs will be created throughout the Swami Vivekananda Asam Youth Employment Yojana.
The event was attended by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, state BJP president Ranjeet Dass, state BJP in-charge Jay Panda, Union ministers and BJP leaders Narendra Singh Tomar and Jitendra Singh, among others.
Assam will go to polls in three phases: March 27, April 1 and April 6.
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