New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) Next year when Assam goes to the polls, chances are high that you won’t listen to any speech by BJP leaders on Citizenship Act. So much so, the party leadership is being convinced to harp on development of Assam and project itself as an inclusive, secular party and not bring in divisive issues.
This is not a sudden decision, but the culmination of a long drawn understanding of Assam’s unique socio-cultural identity. Last December, as many as 15 BJP legislators urged Assam Chief Minister Sarbanad Sonowal to “listen” to the anti-CAA protesters, regardless of the party’s stated position on the legislation. Assam was the first state that went up in arms against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Now the move to tweak its public stand seems to have reached the BJP’s top leadership who have decided on a few things for the Assam elections — “the BJP will put up an inclusive face, the party will avoid indulging in polarising statements as far as practically possible, almost no mention of CAA during election speeches, highlighting how serious the Centre is to save Assam’s unique linguistic and cultural heritage and finally to chalk out its road map for the northeastern state for the next five years with ‘Vikas’ coming back to the discourse.
Top sources in the BJP has confirmed the same, adding that this will be the party’s strategy in Assam unless there is a major change in ground realities.
Party MLAs like Prasanta Phukan have convinced Sonowal that the BJP in Assam needs to be seen as “accommodative of views”. Following the December meeting, the state BJP has made efforts reach out to the Assamese populace through peace processions.
Simultaneously, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has held meetings with Sonowal as well as Himanta Biswa Sarma on the issue. While on a national level, the party has hardened its stance, the BJP leadership is being convinced that it cannot afford to go to state elections next year with such a rigid view, sources said.
The realisation was emboldened after the Delhi poll debacle where Shaheen Bagh was made the central theme of BJP’s election campaign. Union Minister Anurag Thakur was seen rabble rousing by giving speeches like, “Desh ke gaddaro ko”, as the crowd answered back, “Goli maro saalo ko.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recurrently brought up the issue of “biriyani” being distributed at the anti-CAA protest site in Shaheen Bagh. While BJP’s vote share increased to nearly 39 per cent, it faced a humiliating defeat in terms of number of seats. In the 70-member Assembly, BJP managed just eight seats as against AAP’s 62.
In the aftermath of the elections, when Amit Shah was asked about Thakur’s comment at an event in Delhi, he had conceded, “Such statements should not have been made. It may have played a role in BJP losing the Delhi polls.”
Assam Linguistic Minority Development Board (ALMDB), a government body, has sprung into action to ease the tension between ethnic Assamese and Bengalis. It announced that Bengali Hindu brides or grooms in the Assam who tie the knot with Assamese Hindu partners will get financial assistance.
This is believed to be a political brainchild, not administrative, to make assimilation easier. When the BJP will hit the campaign mode, it is likely to cite this as an example of how mindful the party is of Assam’s linguistic and ethnic sensibilities.
A state BJP leader told IANS on condition of anonymity, “Look, there are religious fault lines that exist in Assam. But the victimhood of losing ones culture, language and even land is overwhelming. We want Amit Shah and Narendra Modi to reassure the Assamese people that their identities won’t be compromised. And that can happen only by action and by talking about development.”
So what are those actions? Assam demands the entire state should come under Inner Line Permit (ILP). They fear that the CAA violates the Assam Accord and only bringing the state under ILP can thwart their fears.
The Assam BJP leader cited ILP as a move that can be milked as “genuine action”. Assam Sahitya Sabha, an influential body, has also been demanding the same.
IANS has reliably learnt that the BJP will rather choose to focus on ‘Vikas’ and project an inclusive face than repeating a shrill Delhi like election campaign.