Sunday 25 September 2016
facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

Regular Chai, Please

Congress and Tarun Gogoi hold ground
UB Photos

The electoral behaviour of Assam’s voters is both curious and inscrutable. The lack of homogeneity in its demography is probably one of the reasons but it still doesn’t explain the dominance of the Congress in the face of a sustained “anti-mainland” discourse. Even in the highly charged atmosphere of a belligerent Narendra Modi publicity blitz, Assam seems to be loyal to the sycophant slogan that one of its leaders contributed to another authoritarian leader, ‘India is Indira, Indira is India’.

Issues like insurgency and alleged illegal migration from Bangladesh have been the centrepieces of Assam politics for over three decades. With insurgency on the wane and illegal migration relegated to only rhetoric, what is Assam voting for? Residents say it is “price rise” and “governance”. The projections, how­ever, indicate that the ruling Congress, otherwise beleaguered across the country, is expected to do well in Assam. So what is Tarun Gogoi’s mantra that his counterparts in other states have failed to chant? Some say he’s just been lucky, aided with a weak opposition. He has also been supremely successful in cont­aining dissidence within the ranks.

Advertisement

The BJP, for some mysterious reason, has repeatedly fielded candidates who have had no appeal with the voters.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), prodigal sons of the 1970s and ’80s, is now a political non-entity in the state. The BJP, for some mysterious reason, has never got its act together and repeatedly fields candidates who have no appeal with the voters (with the exception of Bhupen Hazarika who despite his huge popularity lost in ’04). No different now. With a few exceptions, most BJP candidates are virtually unk­nown. In the tea country of Upper Assam, the BJP has fielded two “tea garden community” candidates, but the party is yet to penetrate the ‘coolie’ votes of the estates. Billionaire perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF, which eme­­rged as a formidable opposition, has ­not expanded beyond its Muslim-dom­­inated areas. So, Tarun Gogoi prevails. 

The state government and the Centre can claim to have brought a number of underground movements to the negotia­ting table, but it must also admit to having legitimised extortion rackets (by the surrendered rebels) who have also managed to bag lucrative contracts aided by the government. The common man also ends up paying the price of such ad-hoc peace initiatives. Violence can never be measured only by bodybags; abduction, extortion and intimidation are violent too. Some reports say in 2013 Assam registered an average of 350 abductions every month, mostly for ransom.

Advertisement

But it is really in the Bodoland areas of Lower Assam where the 2014 election res­ults will determine the next government’s first big challenge; the demand for Bodoland state and “50-50 division of Assam”. This is a demand that’s been going on since 1967 and the UPA decision on Telangana will now fuel the claims. Res­istance has resulted in bloody battles with hundreds dead and lakhs of residents who are still homeless. The Bodo political formations have said in no unclear terms that they will go with whoever gives them statehood. During the NDA’s time, L.K. Advani as home minister had granted amnesty to one Bodo group and they have always had a working relationship with the BJP.

In postscript, Assam will not vote on issues that impact their daily lives but on emotional issues like subnational assertions or tribal and caste considerations. The Raghuram Rajan Committee report, 2013, puts Assam among the 10 least developed states. Its human developm­ent indices are abysmally low but it is unlikely that infant mortality or school dropout rates will influence voting.


Journalist Kishalay Bhattacharjee is the author of Che in Paona Bazaar

Give Us A Hand Here Kalimpong Diary
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

In 1999, India and France entered into a $3.5 billion deal for the supply of these submarines. The first of the 6 subs is out on sea trials for the last three months and is to be commissioned later this year. At this stage, a newspaper in Australia has revealed secret data on the submarines, plausibly stolen from India. Indian Defence authorities have ruled out any pilferage of data from India.

POLL STARTED ON: Aug 26, 2016
Quiz
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016
Advertisement