In Assam, BJP set to do well in minority dominated pockets predict locals
With the campaign for by-polls wrapping up on Saturday in Muslim-dominated Jania in Barpeta district, Maidul Islam is confident that the Bharatiya Janata Party will do remarkably well in these elections in the immediate aftermath of the National Register of Citizens, unlike its performance in the past.
The four constituencies including Sonari, Ratabari, Rangapara and Jania will vote on Monday.
A helper with Guwahati Police’s bomb disposal squad and general secretary of BJP’s minority wing of Jania, Maidul Islam listed his reasons. “The vast majority of people here have already made it to the NRC, so they are happy. Among those who have not, there are ones who are supporting us. Since they think this way they will not face harassment,” he said.
The constituency of Jania has never had a BJP MLA.
In 2016, when Abdul Khaleque of the Congress won, the BJP candidate polled just a little over 6,000 votes even as their candidates won in the other three seats which are going for by-polls. The Jania by-election has been necessitated as Khaleque won the Lok Sabha Polls.
The Congress has fielded Shamsul Haque as its candidate while Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF has fielded former MLA Hafiz Rafiqul Islam. The BJP has fielded Towfiqur Rahman, an actor who belongs to Jorhat in Upper Assam.
Maidul Islam said there has been a sea change since the Lok Sabha polls and there are 37,000 new members of the party adding to the 12,000 it already had in the constituency.
“Modi will win. I have also joined the BJP. My mother became a doubtful voter when the Congress was in power. I don’t want to end up with the same fate,” said Aynal Haque, a driver in Jania.
Ashraful Islam, the working president of the students’ wing of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, a peasant rights organisation in the state which has been vehemently opposing the BJP, explained why Muslims are opting for the BJP.
“After the Lok Sabha polls, a section realized that since they cannot defeat the BJP so they should side with it,” he said.
Ashraful Islam explained that the damage to the Congress was done by anti-NRC statements by its leaders.
“Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi has been claiming that NRC is a waste paper. People have invested so much time, faced so much harassment already before the list was published. Now that their names are on it they don’t like anyone who is speaking against it,” he said.
Noorul Islam, an English teacher in a government senior secondary school who is also a D Voter and is among the more than 1.9 million whose names are not in NRC list published on August 31, said the BJP is trying to divide the Minority community by supporting Khilonjiya (indigenous Muslims) and trying to tarnish all Bengal origin Muslims as infiltrators.
But he accepted that the BJP would still get votes in Jania.
“We are thick-skinned like a rhinoceros. We don’t mind being abused as long as there is some benefit,” he said with a caveat that BJP fielding an outsider may cost them votes.
“People here are not used to eating Chalani Maach (fish brought from outside),” he said.
Ashraful Islam said AIUDF remains the favourite to win the polls this time. The party is not contesting the other three seats.
“We are confident of winning three seats and will win Jania, too, if people vote for development and not for any other factor. But one thing is certain, the Congress will draw a big zero,” said Ranjit Dass, president of the state unit of the BJP.
Congress, too, claimed it is hopeful of retaining Jania. “We will win three out of four seats if the election is free and fair. We are hopeful of winning Jania,” said R Konwar, a spokesperson of the state unit of the Congress.