iconimg Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Zia Haq, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 31, 2009
The fight for 40 per cent Muslim votes in Assam has come full circle, as the Assam United Democratic Front, led by perfume baron and Deoband cleric Badruddin Ajmal, squares off with the Congress in eight seats where Muslim votes can tip the scale. As Ajmal’s party prepares to contest the Lok Sabha polls for the first time, some of his calculations have gone awry. He has abandoned the idea of fielding candidates in all 14 seats. Of these, four are being contested between him and his brother Sirajuddin Ajmal.

The AUDF formed three months before the state elections in 2006 had stormed the Assembly with 10 first-time seats.

The fight this time is oddly balanced.

Analysts said Ajmal’s party might win no more than one seat — that of his own — but it might be the single biggest spoiler for the Congress. “Our aim is to damage the Congress,” Ajmal said from Dhubri.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, however, has dismissed any real threat. “This is not 2006. The IMDT Act is not an issue now. We have strong minority candidates to take on the AUDF,” he told HT in an exclusive interview in the Capital.

In 2006, Ajmal had cashed in on the scrapping of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, seen as a shield for Assam’s illegal Bangladeshi migrants, his main vote bank.

Gogoi, who called the AUDF a “communal party”, has now pulled out an old trump card. During a visit to the Capital two weeks ago, he called on a close friend, Yahya Bukhari, the younger brother of Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam. Bukhari is set to campaign for Gogoi beginning next week to take on Ajmal’s party.

The Bukharis, apart from a host of Muslim leaders from Delhi, had helped Ajmal launch his party. Three years later, he has fallen out with all of them.