Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday cautioned poll-bound Assam to be wary of BJP’s habit of engineering communal violence for electoral gains.
“The BJP has only one card — divide people and turn them against each other before every election. It knows it can never win if there is communal harmony,” he said while launching the party’s 2016 assembly election campaign at Medhirtari, a village of migrant Muslims. The village in Barpeta district is 110km west of capital Guwahati. Muslims account for 70.73% of the district’s total population.
Gandhi tore into Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his failure to deliver on his poll promises. “People are no longer buying his promises, and the Bihar assembly election has changed his body language. He no longer sits in Parliament with an air of arrogance,” Gandhi said.
He insisted that the Congress was the only party that could ensure peace and harmony in Assam. “This state was torn by violence 15 years ago but the development mantra of the Congress changed all that,” Gandhi said, hoping people would help chief minister Tarun Gogoi lead the party to a fourth straight win.
The march signified communal harmony taken up by the Congress as a poll theme to counter what it calls the BJP’s brand of polarisation. But the route straddles two assembly constituencies — Barpeta and Jania — that were wrested from the Congress by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
Analysts say the AIUDF is a bigger challenge than BJP for the Congress in Barpeta. Since the 2006 assembly polls, the AIUDF has taken a large chunk of the Congress’ minority vote bank. There has also been speculation about the two parties joining hands to prevent the BJP from coming to power in Assam.
Meanwhile, the BJP said Gandhi had taken inspiration from a similar march it had organised from Barpeta Satra before the Lok Sabha polls last year. That was headed by Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is the BJP’s CM candidate. “Even if he walks 1,000km, Rahul Gandhi cannot rescue the Congress in Assam,” Sonowal said.