The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L K Advani's statement announcing an autonomous state to two ethnic communities in Assam if voted to power has raked up a blazing controversy with influential groups charging the party of trying to divide the state for political gains.
"Nobody wants further fragmentation of Assam although an autonomous state to the Karbis and Dimasas is in accordance with Article 244(A). We don't have any problems when it comes to granting more powers or total autonomy, but dividing the state further is not acceptable," Dilip Patgiri, adviser to the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad, a radical students' group, told IANS.
"Advani's statement is simply ridiculous... nobody would accept or want further dismemberment of Assam on ethnic lines," said H N Das, former Assam chief secretary.
Advani on Wednesday told an election rally in Assam's Karbi Anglong district that his government would grant an autonomous state to the Karbis and Dimasas in the two hill districts, a demand that the two ethnic communities have been long fighting for.
The BJP's stand on granting an autonomous state is diametrically opposite to its alliance partner the Asom Gana Parishad's (AGP) stand of a greater Assamese society by avoiding any more fragmentation of Assam.
"I am surprised at the way the BJP leader made the statement of carving out an autonomous state when the AGP has always been talking of integration and unity among all ethnic groups," said Debo Prasad Barooah, former vice chancellor of Gauhati University and a one-time ideologue of the AGP.
"The stand of the BJP is diametrically opposite to that of the AGP when it comes to fragmentation on ethnic lines.
"Now the AGP is bound to accept BJP's announcement of an autonomous states no matter what their stand is, as opposing the move now would affect their poll prospects with the two parties are allies in Assam," Barooah said.
Advani may have managed to score some political points by making a poll promise of an autonomous state, but would certainly find it hard to actually implement his promise as there are dozens of other ethnic groups in Assam demanding autonomous states.