It sounds more like a lover’s promise than a politician’s pre-poll vow. But then, Upamanyu Hazarika is not a politician—and a candidate only by chance, as he puts it. So, when his campaign pamphlet includes the curious sentence, “I will never betray you”, the people of Assam are not missing the wry humour around political fickleness. Hazarika, 53—a Supreme Court lawyer—is an independent candidate for the prestigious Gauhati Lok Sabha seat, which goes to the polls on April 23. He will primarily take on two women—Queen Oja of the BJP and Congress’s Bobbeeta Sharma.
Hazarika’s main agenda is “illegal infiltration”, especially from Bangladesh, which, he says, threatens the identity of Assam’s indigenous people. It is not a new issue. Political fortunes have been made around it, like that of the AGP. The Congress and, lately, the BJP has milked it multiple times. But Hazarika says that all these parties failed to keep their promises.
“Especially in Assam, the people have been betrayed time and again by various political parties including the AGP which was formed to safeguard the indigenous people. The result so far is zero. So, I had to mention that I will be loyal to my cause and to the people,” Hazarika tells Outlook as he gets ready for campaigning in Chhaygaon which falls under Guwahati. “Our main issues remained the same over the years. The indigenous people are still under threat. The border is yet to be sealed...I want to see a state which is free from the infiltrators and where the indigenous people can live peacefully,” Hazarika adds.
Hazarika has been vocal opponent of the lapsed citizenship amendment bill, which had sparked violent protests across Assam and Northeast recently. But with the issue fizzling out, will the people still back him? “There are 18 lakh indigenous voters in Guwahati... And there’s nobody with the indigenous people in the true sense. I have been fighting a lone battle for the security and safety of the indigenous people. The response in the ground has been overwhelming. So, I think that’s a positive gesture,” Hazarika adds.