Assam Elections: BJP Welfare Sops Influence Votes In Its Favor | India News
GUWAHATI: If the 2016 elections revolved around Narendra modi and his promise to free the state from infiltrators, the 2021 elections focused on the identity of indigenous and Assamese peoples. Development and employment were minor issues.
Assam, except for the Barak Valley inhabited by Bengalis, erupted in protests in December 2019 when the Center passed the citizenship (amendment) bill. Five people were killed in the protests and many others were injured in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that sparked a chain reaction across the Brahmaputra Valley.
Leading organizations like All Assam The Student Union (Aasu), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and Asam Sahitya Sabha expressed their solidarity with protesters to safeguard indigenous identity for months until the pandemic halted protests in March next year. The identity of the Assamese and other indigenous peoples took center stage when the momentum shifted to electoral campaigns.
While the saffron narrative to safeguard indigenous identity has been to resist ‘aggression by Muslim immigrants’ of Bengali origin, ethnic organizations shifted into a state of war mood to thwart the CAA. The latter were in no mood to allow the legalization of the entry of any foreigner for religious reasons, whether Hindu or Muslim, whom they described as a threat to indigenous identity.
In the struggle of “two civilizations”, the saffron alliance presented the threat of the “one civilization” represented by immigrant Muslims as the gravest threat. Although the promise of beneficiary schemes was pointed out in the middle by the ruling party, the BJP continued to corner the Congress-AIUDF alliance primarily by warning voters that its victory would fuel the aggression of the ‘other civilization to’ take over the economy, indigenous identity and culture. ‘.
But after all, it is the BJP’s indigenous identity narrative, which garnered the support of a large portion of indigenous tribes and communities that gave the BJP-led NDA or Mitrajot a decisive mandate for this election.
“The people of Assam believed us. We have been in favor of CAA since its inception. But the opposition did not manage to corner us on the issue of citizenship because we have been transparent in CAA but at the same time, determined to protect indigenous communities. Their own identity narrative, that organizations like Aasu felt threatened by CAA, failed to convince voters, ”said Assam BJP chief spokesperson Rupam Goswami.
He claimed that infrastructure development under the BJP regime has been visible and swung the pendulum in favor of the NDA. “The identity of the Assamese and other indigenous peoples has not been threatened by CAA, as the Opposition claims,” Goswami added.
Contrary to CongressIn opposition to CAA, he claimed that the great old party was at the opposite pole in the Barak Valley. “The chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, promised that he would not do anything that could harm his homeland. Obviously, the indigenous identity of the people of Assam will remain intact, ”said Goswami.
Aasu President Dipanka Kumar Nath admitted that although the people have not forgotten the identity threat caused by the CAA and the non-implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, it is the BJP welfare plans that helped make the saffron alliance went ahead.
“Perhaps ordinary voters were relieved for the time being due to the numerous beneficiary schemes of the BJP-led government such as free rice, direct benefit transfer, scooty for students and the promise to forego microfinance loans,” said Nath.
However, he said burning issues like flooding and erosion, lack of adequate irrigation facilities and other bigger issues remained unresolved. “The BJP trick worked. Although most departments did not have funds to start real development, ”said Nath.