Friday, May 20th, 2016

Election 2016: What the verdict means to Assam’s perennial problem

NK Bhoopesh | May 20, 2016 7:40 am Print
BJP's victory in Assam could provide the party a gateway to north east. But how the saffron party deals with the multi-culturism and unique food habits of the region will be keenly watched by people of the other states in the region

The BJP has achieved what was unthinkable before a decade or so in Assam. With the decisive victory in the north east, the saffron party had reached that part of India, which for a variety of reasons was hitherto considered  insurmountable for them.

Political alignments, taking up the right kind of slogans, and of course the anti-incumbency factor against the 15 year old Congress rule, all might have played a role in its victory. But BJP has made it. And it is going to change Assam and perhaps north east as well.

Despite the fact that Assam is home to people belonging to different cultures, it is a place suited for BJP to play a political agenda which is close to its heart- pitting ‘us against them’.  Leaders from prime minister Narendra Modi to the local leaders have played this card exceedingly well. All other factors fell in line for the saffron party.

Assam all through its recent history has been roiling on the question of who is Assamese and who is an immigrant. But  BJP and its idealogical fountainhead RSS has made it more complicated by distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’immigrants.


During the Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi made his party’s position on immigrants well and clear. He said all the problems that Assamese were facing are because of the immigrants and that too by those who came into this country as part of a ‘political conspiracy,’ with obvious reference to Muslims migrating from Bangladesh. For him the good immigrants are in Assam because of their lives have been made difficult in Bangladesh and they have no place other than neighbouring  India to go.  And the blame for all the problems rest with Congress according to them. These words resonated with a large section of the people who hated the immigrants.  And it helped BJP as the results suggest.

The politics of Assam was shaped  for a very long time among other things by the antagonism towards the immigrants. But the activists or groups campaigning against immigrants did not generally target them on the basis of their religion.  Modi in the election speeches promised that if he comes to power then he will see that illegal immigrants pack their bags and leave the country. A promise he could not keep even after two years. But as the Assembly election results shows the people of the state is ready to wait for that.  But the big question is how differentiating immigrants on religious lines will be taken by the people.What effect it  will have in other parts of the country. Especially since Assam is home to a sizable number of Muslims. The strong presence of the AIDUF in the state may also exacerbate the process of division among the people.

Now with BJP coming to power how they are going to deal with this issue, will in a big way, shape the future of the state. Not only that, how BJP is going to deal with the issue of multi-culturism of a state  in which disparate groups of people inhabiting is also of great importance when it comes to the future of the state. Will they impose their uni -polar world view on them?  In a state where majority of people eat beef, will the party go ahead with its declared position and will try to change the centuries old food habits of the people?


The Congress might be now ruing their decision to allow Himant Biswa Sarma, to leave the party. Considered as an architect of 2011 Congress victory, Himanta joined BJP after his attempt for the chief ministerial post was thwarted by the Congress high command.

This according to many observers made things easy for the BJP. The loss of Assam for Congress stands as another testimony for the inability of the party’s leadership to gauge the ground realities. But this political blunder by the grand old party could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the people of Assam. Or is this going to add to their  woes?