March 17, 2021 1:15:32 pm
What are some of the core issues for the BJP in these elections?
Development and security are the core issues we are contesting the elections on this time. We have done so much developmental work. Congress built six medical colleges in Assam in the last six-seven decades; we have built those many in the last five years. Congress did not seal the India-Bangladesh border; we did. Congress provided indigenous people with no security for their land; we have given that by providing land patta to over 3 lakh indigenous people. We have built roads and bridges. We have done much vikas, and more needs to be done. We have done a lot of work for developing the culture and heritage of Assam.
But some of your colleagues have been making communal remarks.
The BJP does not do politics on communal lines. We have had a minority morcha since 1980… If leaders are saying things on communal lines it is their personal agenda, it is not the party’s agenda. We have focussed tremendously on development of minorities, including women from the minority community. We are working for educating and developing minority communities.
Will the massive anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests we saw in 2019 have an impact on the BJP’s performance in these elections?
The CAA is not a factor at all. The effect of the anti-CAA protests on the BJP is zero. When the anti-CAB (Bill) protests were ongoing in Assam in December 2018, we swept the panchayat elections. In Lok Sabha polls, we won 9 (out of 14) Assam seats. This time there will be no effect because anti-CAA protests went wrong in their strategy and spread complete misinformation and falsehood. They said 1.5 crore Bangladeshis will come to Assam after CAA. I asked people and party workers in villages if anyone has come in; they said ‘no’.
Will the Congress-AIUDF tie-up and their ‘grand alliance’ affect the BJP?
Because of spreading lies on the CAA and allying with the AIUDF, the Congress will be wiped out in Upper Assam (eastern part of Assam, dominated by Assamese speakers). We will win seven seats which are now held by the Congress. The party which once said, “Who’s Badruddin?”, is now saying he is their main leader. People in Upper Assam will never forgive this party. Today, you see, most of the artistes and cultural figures who were anti-CAA protesters are now with us. Famous writers are with us. Hence, the anti-CAA campaign of the Congress will not affect us. (MP and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal leads the AIUDF, which enjoys a large support base amongst Bengali-origin Muslims of Assam).
The other ally of the ‘grand alliance’, the Bodoland People’s Front might win one or two seats because they will get the minority votes from the AIUDF. But the BJP and our ally in Bodoland region, the UPPL, will win at least 10 seats (out of the 12), I am sure.
What’s your take on the new regionalist alliance of the Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and the Raijor Dal (RD)?
The AJP-RD alliance’s effect on us will be zero. People of Assam will not vote emotionally. They will vote on justification. That’s why, this new alliance may eat a few thousand votes here and there, but will not have any effect on our winnability.
The opposition has also accused the BJP of not doing enough to protect the interests of the indigenous Assamese people.
No one could have been more jatiyatabadi (Assamese nationalist or regionalist) than the Sarbananda Sonowal-led Assam government. We promised to protect ‘jati, mati, bheti’ (community, land and hearth). We have protected and promoted the language, we have funded Sahitya Sabhas, we have freed land of Sattras (Vaishnavite monasteries) from encroachment. We have given land pattas and homes to people. We have sealed borders. We are protecting Assam’s pride, the rhinos. Poaching has reduced so much and in the coming days we will get it down to zero. If Congress comes to power, rhino poaching will increase and land of Sattras will be encroached upon.
Have you decided your CM candidate?
The parliamentary board of the party will decide that.
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