Assam’s first BJP chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal—at 53, one of the youngest CMs--has let it be known that his government’s first priority is to seal the border with Bangladesh and deal with illegal migrants. Bula Devi caught up with him to get an idea of his roadmap. Excerpts from the interview:
Himanta Biswa Sarma had declared that if BJP were voted to power, it would make 1951 the cutoff year for citizenship.
It was his personal observation. The party’s stand is very clear. In any case, this statement was not considered very seriously by the people and the party got a sizeable number of seats even in Muslim-dominated areas. This time, the BJP won 13 seats in Muslim-dominated areas; earlier, it didn’t even have one.
What do you think prompted Muslims in Assam to vote for the BJP?
We have worked hard to win over Muslim minds, build confidence and create a perceptible sense of security. They have developed the faith that with BJP in power, they would be protected.
Could it be fear—or desperation?
No, the BJP’s campaign was so mild and so positive. We have a beautiful, secular society; both communities have been living together without prejudice or conflict for centuries. They value coexistence. The BJP could influence them through positive initiatives and statements. The BJP could instil in them the confidence that the party could not only give them protection, shelter, clothing and food, but dignity as well.
Why did you fail to instil faith earlier?
People have tremendous faith in Narendra Modi’s leadership.
Modi has proved that ‘Sabka saath, sabka...