The poll vision document gaffe of labelling people from northeast living in Delhi as immigrants might cost the BJP its cultivated popularity in Assam.
Local party leaders fear the anger against the party following the release of the vision document could impact the election to 74 municipal boards and town committees in 11 of Assam’s 27 districts on February 9. The campaigning ends on Saturday.
The ruling Congress and regional parties such as Asom Gana Parishad besides social organisations cashed in on the faux pas to fan anti-BJP sentiments. Effigies of BJP leaders were burnt and campaigners were booed at several places.
“Our party bird was soaring high before the vision document turned into a catapult and shot the ‘immigrant’ stone to bring it down,” a senior party leader on campaign trail told HT from Nalbari, 71 km northwest of Guwahati.
Punters and opinion polls had put the BJP ahead of the beleaguered Congress in the local body polls.
Another leader close to state unit president Siddhartha Bhattacharyya admitted the faux pas has made the word ‘immigrants’ boomerang on the BJP. The party had built it base on the fear that indigenous communities would be overrun by Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh allegedly used by Congress as vote-bank.
Apart from the ‘Modi wave’, the BJP played the Bangladeshi card to win seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam last year.
Though the party formed a government in Arunachal Pradesh in 2003, Assam is the only northeastern state where political pundits feel it has a realistic chance of ruling.
“The outcome was a reward of our hard work in compound interest,” Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal had said after winning the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat last year.
One word – immigrants – is threatening to undo the effort, in the short-term at least, despite apologies from BJP’s central leadership for the ‘error’.
Meanwhile, state Congress president Anjan Dutta courted controversy by declaring that Rs 1,000 crore earmarked by the government for urban and semi-urban development would be provided only to those municipal boards and town committees where Congress wins.
"If this is blackmailing, so be it," Dutta said on the penultimate day of campaigning on Friday.
"This is violation of the election code of conduct and we have lodged a complaint," a spokesperson of the pro-minority All India United Democratic Front said.