Sarbananda Sonowal, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Assam Friday addressed election rallies in Majuli, which is often referred to as Assam’s spiritual nerve-centre because of numerous satras or Vaishnav monasteries subscribing to the teachings of 16th-century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva.
Here are the highlights from his rally:
4:30pm: Sonowal reaches Gayengaon village in Majuli
- Sonowal: How can a party serve people if it is family-centric and dynastic?
1:45pm: Sonowal at Bangaon
- How can Sonia Gandhi think of Assam when she has only Rahul in her mind day and night?
- Working for people is not a Congress habit
- Tarun Gogoi used his face and name for Rs 3 per kg rice, but PM Modi has provided it for you
- Congress only gives you blanket and yarn before elections
- 4 km trip from Salmora to Bangaon, Sonowal’s next venue took more than 30 minutes
- 34 Congress workers joined BJP at Sonowal’s Salmora meeting
1pm: Sonowal at Salmora
- We shall try to ensure proper utilisation of Majuli’s rich natural and human resources
- Sonowal at Bangaon, Majuli: If we win, price of rice can be brought back to Re 1 per kg
Hindustan Times is reporting about the election rallies and meetings of various political leaders extensively under its Follow the Leader coverage.
12pm: Highlights of Sonowal’s speech at Dakhinpat
- If BJP and allies form government, Majuli will be the most important constituency
- When PM told me to contest state polls, I had underdeveloped Majuli in mind
- We will order probes in corruption cases if we form government in Assam
- We will have a centre here in Ambedkar’s name
- Congress reaped the benefits of Vajpayee’s foresight and plans for developed India
Watch | Women perform Mishing dance to welcome Sonowal
- Sonowal to HT reporter: BJP has tied up with BPF (mainly of Bodo tribal people in western and north-central Assam) and Rabha Hasong (of Rabha tribe in southwestern Assam) because the party feels for the real sons of the soil.
- “It is difficult to preserve our tradition and culture now,” Chumoimari village local Hemanta Panging, a Mishing, said.
11am: Highlights of Sonowal’s speech at Chumoimari
- Once I leave this venue, Congress workers will come here and offer you money - your money they have swiped
- Congress in 55 yrs did not give you bridge, Modi in 2 years announced one
- Tarun Gogoi is a bhoomiputra but cannot work if Sonia Gandhi does not give order
- Tarun Gogoi doesn’t have control over the state government. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi won’t spend a week here to understand your problems
- Chumoimari is one of worst erosion affected regions in the state and if voted to power, you will be my priority
- Think who will address Majuli erosion problem and vote on April 4
- At Sonowal rally venue Chumoimari rows of Mishing Bihu dancers welcome him
- Chumoimari has 210 Mishing families with 800 voters. Half of them are erosion victims, resettled
10.45am: Sonowal arriving in Chumoimari, a mishing tribal village
10.30am: Sonowal reaches Bengena Ati in Majuli
- Few local Congress workers joined BJP at Sonowal’s Bengena Ati rally, saying they have spent 25 years with Congress for nothing
Off the arterial single-lane roads in Majuli, travel is invariably on bumpy, wavy earthen tracks -- usually raised embankments to protect huts from period floods and erosion. Here motorcycles run faster than bicycles only if the rider has no mercy for shock-absorbers.
Some areas, mostly non-tribal, have newly laid or half-laid concrete lanes, wide enough for a small car to move.
Majuli seat being reserved for ST, it has had a Mishing tribal representative. Sonowal, a Sonowal Kachari tribal but from elsewhere, is trying to endear himself to voters in the island.
Highlights of Sonowal’s speech at Dhapakgaon, Majuli
- Will take Majuli to world stage
- Want job security for jobless Majuli youths and electricity, farm development for the region
- Bhoomiputra’s bhoomi raksha is BJP’s motto
- BJP has tied up with tribal party (BDF) to save tribal belt from migrant encroachers
-I want to help preserve Majuli monasteries and Mishing tribal culture
#Followtheleader Landed Kamalabari Ghat, Majuli after one-hour ferry ride to follow Sarbananda Sonowal— Rahul Karmakar (@rahconteur) April 1, 2016
Readers may pose their questions directly to our reporters on Twitter by using #followtheleader. Please ask Rahul Karmakar all about Sonowal’s agenda on his Twitter handle @rahconteur and he will tweet the BJP leader’s answers.
Polling for the first phase of polls in Assam, which has a total of one crore 98 lakh voters, will be held on April 4 for 65 seats. The votes will be counted on May 19.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is banking on Sonowal to strike gold for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in mandate 2016 for spreading happiness. If the BJP and its two regional allies pull it off, Sonowal would be the second tribal chief minister after Jogen Hazarika, also a Sonowal Kachari who had a 94-day stint in 1979.
Majuli assembly constituency is spread over a 540 sq km island in the Brahmaputra. The constituency has an electorate of 1.14 lakh, of whom 43,000 belong to the Mishing tribe.
Also Read | Assam polls: Majuli, a river island that BJP hopes to conquer
The constituency has invariably had a Mishing representative. Rajib Lochan Pegu, the Congress candidate seeking re-election, belongs to this tribe unlike rival Sonowal, who is a Sonowal Kachari tribal from Dibrugarh district further east.
Majuli was never a VIP constituency until now; it is the focus of attention because of Sonowal, and the monastery abbots are behind him, trying to mobilise the 71,000 non-tribal voters.
These monasteries are symbolic of the erosion that threatens the island, which once measured 1,200 sq km. Since 1975, more than half of the 65 monasteries have shifted to the mainland while more than 9,500 families have lost their houses and paddy fields. The river has also washed away an estimated 100 villages in the past 40 years, locals say.
Apart from the lack of infrastructure, the main issue in Majuli is communication. It takes more than an hour for a ferry to reach the island from Neamati Ghat on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra.
The island has for long been promised a bridge linking it to both the banks. Locals hope the new representative keeps this promise.