The BJP has in fact gone into a new low in their political narrative which is fundamentally against the Assamese ethos, says Congress leader and MP Pradyut Bordoloi
With less than 24 hours to go for the first phase of voting in 47 Legislative Assembly constituencies of Assam, the excitement leading to the beginning of the political battle is increasing by the minute. Unlike 2016, BJP does not have the benefits of a Narendra Modi this time. There are factors on the ground like the anti-CAA sentiments that, although diluted, can still trigger an anti-incumbency mood. As such the Congress has regrouped strongly in the last few months picking up strategic partners, hiding internal differences and embarking on a massive social media drive.
Congress MP from Nowgong Pradyut Bordoloi, who is at the forefront of campaigning along with other party leaders, in a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, explains why the party is better prepared to take on the BJP this time despite the ruling party’s campaigning blitzkrieg.
Edited excerpts follow:
As before, BJP is projecting its development plant as its USP to seek votes. How convinced are you?
The development plank of BJP has been a farce because though they talk about development they are not passing the development plank in the right earnest. Instead of that, they know they have failed on all fronts be it job creation, mitigating the plight of the common people or those fundamental issues that touch the lives of common people. That is why they are very afraid of going to the people with a development plank or talking about development only.
To camouflage their failure what they are doing is that they have taken up their ultimate weapon that is to polarise people and bringing in a religious sentiment. In fact, it is a shame that those issues — the two-nation theory that has been buried in India 75 years ago, the BJP have brought it out in their politics in Assam. Now they are trying to propagate the theory just to polarise the society in Assam and to rupture and destroy the social fabric that has been painstakingly built by generations of Assamese Congress leaders.
BJP calls Congress’ alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF “unholy” and harmful for Assam. What do you have to say on that?
This is also a very laughable accusation of them. They themselves have an alliance with AIUDF. Even today three Zila Parishads in Assam like Nagaon, Darrang are being run by an alliance of AIUDF and BJP. In the past also, they joined hands with AIUDF for putting up a common candidate into the Rajya Sabha. There are many such instances. But today when we formed the grand alliance with AIUDF as one of the nine progressive political parties and others like CPM, CPI, CPI-ML, BPF, Anchalik Gana Parishad, their opposition to it is very ridiculous. They are just trying to use Ajmal as a punching bag to further their religious polarisation politics. The people of Assam are rejecting this kind of accusation.
Of late, Congress seems to have stopped washing its dirty linen in public at least during campaigning. Is that strategic?
I think Congress is not a divided house. May be at times in the past due to weak leadership issues there was a sense of indiscipline but credit goes to Jitendra Singh who has taken over as the general secretary. He has brought everybody on board with equal respect and equal status. And as it is as senior leaders of the party, we are all responsible. We have the experience and we all know that we will have to work unitedly to defeat the BJP. We are absolutely united and we are fighting the BJP. And we are winning the election this time.
If Congress regains power, will we see an MP taking charge as the chief minister of the state?
It is premature to say anything like this. Our primary and main aim is to defeat the BJP in the state because we fundamentally believe that the BJP’s rule has been ruining the social fabric of Assam. It is upon us to restore the social fabric of Assam. We must stop the BJP juggernaut. We have to restore the Axomiyatwyo of the state of Assam.
Many opinion polls are claiming that BJP will retain power in Assam although with a lesser majority than 2016. What do you have to say on that?
Whatever opinion poll that has been given by certain national-level television channels from Delhi or any other place, I always take that with a pinch of salt. We all know these channels are all in the pocket of the BJP. All these rich capitalists are hand in gloves with (Narendra) Modi and BJP. So whatever they say I actually don’t believe it. I believe in myself, I believe in the capacity of my party. In Assam, we are going to form a Congress-led government in one-and-half months from now.
We have seen Congress making a strong presence in Upper and Northern Assam until a month ago but Himanta Biswa Sarma might have countered that wave by mounting massive campaigns. Do you worry about losing ground?
Fundamentally, the Assamese people are very secular. The Assamese ethos is very liberal and very inclusive. It is a person like Himanta Biswa Sarma who on behalf of the RSS from Nagpur is trying to basically divide the Assamese society into two religious polarisations. That has not gone down well with the Assamese people. In the first phase especially in Upper Assam most of the seats where the people are going for votes, the BJP is trying to build a crescendo on this hype. The BJP has in fact gone into a new low in their political narrative which is fundamentally against the Assamese ethos. That is why they cannot see the same religious polarisation and this attempt to divide the Assamese society again and again. The people of Assam are going to reject it.
The Congress party has come up big on social media with a rising presence on Twitter and Facebook with themes like #KokaaiKiKoi, #BaadDiaHe and a new Twitter handle @5Guarantee. How is it helping?
Our campaign has been designed in a very cohesive manner. Social media plays a very important role. Needless to say that social media reaches out to a very large section of voters especially the young people. So our social media has also been designed to actually highlight what we are doing and how we want to carry it forward. We are getting dividends for this cohesive approach.
BJP has made no mention of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and Clause 6 of the Assam Accord in its manifesto. Any comment on that?
BJP is like a chameleon. They change colours whenever it suits them. The CAA has already been enacted but they are saying different things in different states. For example, they are saying it will be implemented in toto in West Bengal, in Tamil Nadu they have said that it will not be implemented, in Assam they are totally mum. It is a very opportunistic stance of BJP. Whatever suits them they want to do it to attain political power by hook or by crook. The BJP leadership is like the fly-by-night operator. They will take anything that will fetch them power. People can see through their game.
How much does the party miss Tarun Gogoi?
Obviously, Tarun Gogoi had been a cornerstone for the last 15-20 years. So, we are definitely missing him but we are not feeling helpless. After all, we trained under him. I had been his colleague in the ministry. So we are carrying forward Tarun Gogoi’s legacy and we are sufficiently trained and experienced. Even if his policies are omnipresent, we are not feeling helpless. We are not feeling like we can’t get it done ourselves. It is not a problem for us.
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