Lok Sabha Elections 2019: In Assam’s Silchar, BJP pins hopes on Citizenship Bill to rake in the votes
BJP’s commitment to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is the party’s main poll plank in Assam unlike in other parts of the northeast. Silchar is among the five Lok Sabha seats in the state that are voting on April 18, the second phase of parliamentary polls.Updated: Apr 18, 2019 09:40 IST
Kishore Choudhary, a graduate preparing for examinations to secure a government job, was among those who made it to the draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which came out on July 30, 2018. His parents did not.
“Modi sahib (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) came recently and told us not to worry. If Hindus will not come to India because they are being targeted in Bangladesh, where else would they go?” he asked, as he chatted outside a BJP election office in Kalibari Char, a slum sandwiched between the Barak River and its embankment in Silchar, the headquarters of Assam’s Cachar district and one of Bengali-speaking Barak Valley’s two Lok Sabha (LS) constituencies which are voting on April 18.
“Since Modi came (to power), our slum has paved roads. The Congress only works for Muslims who throw stones at us,” Choudhary said, claiming that members of the minority community who live on the other side of the embankment, still pelt stones at the Hindu houses as they did during a clash in 2018. The Muslims have similar complaints.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the constituency twice since January, reiterating the BJP’s commitment to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), which, unlike in other parts of the Northeast, is the party’s main poll plank here. It promises citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The Congress has called it unconstitutional.
In Silchar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invocation of sons and daughters of Bharat Mata, when he referred to the non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh and reiterated his commitment to CAB, have assuaged a section of such people who were unhappy being clubbed as ‘ghuspethiye’ whom the BJP wanted to throw out.
Anger against the ruling BJP government among the Bengali speaking Hindus peaked after July 30 when more than 2 lakh people in Cachar found themselves out of the NRC draft. During Durga Puja last year, NRC state coordinator Pratik Hajela was depicted as Mahishasur in Silchar.
In Silchar, bustling even at 9 pm with people thronging the shops and many stalls on the pavements on the eve of Bengali New Year, loudspeakers mounted atop campaign auto-rickshaws blare the slogans ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Matram’ and attack the Congress for not supporting the Bill.
“I will vote for Modi. He is the one who is doing so much for the country,” said Nyuti Roy, a homemaker, a day after she attended Modi’s rally in Silchar on April 11. Her father, 102-year-old Chandradhar Das was picked up by Assam Police and put in the Silchar jail detention camp for foreigners in March 2018 after a foreigners tribunal declared him as ex-parte. The ailing Das is now out on bail and battling to prove that he came to India in the 1950s as a Partition refugee.
“Obviously, the BJP has an advantage since it is giving leap assurances on the Bill, while the Congress is not supporting,” said Sadhan Purakayatha, secretary general of citizen’s rights preservation committee, a local rights body.
However, sitting Congress MP Sushmita Dev’s stand of supporting the citizenship to Hindu refugees going against her party’s stated position have complicated things further for the BJP even as Modi remains popular.
To win in Silchar, BJP has to cross multiple barriers - convincing everyone that it will indeed bring CAB, getting a section of the 37 per cent Muslim vote, overcoming the infighting within the party among others.
A senior BJP leader explained how the party has won the polls only thrice. “All the three times there was a strong third Muslim candidate (who received a healthy share of Muslim votes) making it easy for the BJP,” he said.
But on the ground, BJP’s push for CAB has infuriated the local Muslims and their political preferences are visible as one crosses over to the Muslim part of Kalibari char and Congress flags replace the BJP’s.
“Earlier, we could see the bridge on the Barak clearly. Now see how many thousands of Hindus have come and occupied this space. We cannot allow them to be citizens,” said Fatahuddin Laskar, who runs a shop pointing towards the Hindu part of the slum.
Even some young Hindus claim that citizenship to refugees would mean more competition and lesser opportunities for them.
To make things worse for the BJP, some of its own are not confident if they will bring the CAB.
“The promise of CAB has neutralised the anger against CAB but it will be very difficult to bring in the amendment now. Prime Minister said he will take Assamese into confidence, But it is difficult to convince them,” said BJP’s Silchar MLA Dilip Paul, laying out his fears. “I am worried what would happen to people who are out of NRC,” he said.
Perhaps this is what prompted Ram Madhav, the BJP General Secretary reiterating to the media in Silchar on April 16 in what seemed like an assurance to Hindu migrants. He reportedly said, “NRC and CAB will eventually solve the issue of illegal infiltration of people. If anyone is left out of the final NRC list, they will have an opportunity to claim for citizenship rights.”
For now it is an open contest in Silchar.
|Karimganj||Radheshyam Biswas, AIUDF|
|Silchar||Sushmita Dev, Congress|
|Autonomous District||Biren Singh Engti, Congress|
|Mangaldoi||Ramen Deka, BJP|
|Nawgong||Rajen Gohain, BJP|
|Kishanganj||Mohammad Asrarul Haque, Congress|
|Katihar||Shah Tariq Anwar, NCP|
|Purnia||Santosh Kumar, JD(U)|
|Bhagalpur||Shailesh Kumar (Bulo Mandal), RJD|
|Banka||Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav, RJD|
|Rajnandgaon||Abhishek Singh, BJP|
|Mahasamund||Chandulal Sahu, BJP|
|Kanker||Vikram Dev Usendi, BJP|
|Jammu and Kashmir|
|Srinagar||Farooq Abdullah, National Conference|
|Udhampur||Dr. Jitendra Singh, BJPs|
|Udupi Chikmagalur||Shobha Karandlaje, BJP|
|Hassan||H.D. Deve Gowda, JD(S)|
|Dakshina Kannada||Nalin Kumar Kateel, BJP|
|Tumkur||S. P. Muddahanumegowda, Congress|
|Mandya||CS Puttaraju, JD(S)|
|Mysore||Prathap Simha, BJP|
|Chamrajanagar||R Dhruvanarayana, Congress|
|Bangalore Rural||DK Suresh, Congress|
|Bangalore North||DV Sadananda Gowda, BJP|
|Bangalore Central||PC Mohan, BJP|
|Bangalore South||Vacant after Ananth Kumar’s death in 2018|
|Chikkaballapur||Veerappa Moily, Congress|
|Kolar||KH Muniyappa, Congress|
|Buldhana||Jadhav Prataprao Ganpatrao, Shiv Sena|
|Akola||Dhotre Sanjay Shamrao, BJP|
|Amravati||Adsul Anandrao Vithoba, Shiv Sena|
|Hingoli||Rajeev Shankarrao Satav, Congress|
|Nanded||Ashok Shankarrao Chavan, Congress|
|Parbhani||Jadhav Sanjay (Bandu) Haribhau, Shiv Sena|
|Beed||Pritam Gopinathrao Munde, BJP|
|Osmanabad||Gaikwad Ravindra Vishwanath, Shiv Sena|
|Latur||Dr. Sunil Baliram Gaikwad, BJP|
|Solapur||Sharad Bansode, BJP|
|Inner Manipur||Thokchom Meinya, Congress|
|Bargarh||Prabas Kumar Singh, BJD|
|Sundargarh||Jual Oram, BJP|
|Bolangir||Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, BJD|
|Kandhamal||Pratyusha Rajeshwari Singh, BJD|
|Aska||Ladu Kishore Swain, BJD|
|Tiruvallur||Dr. P. Venugopal, AIADMK|
|Chennai North||TG Venkatesh Babu, AIADMK|
|Chennai South||J Jayavardhan, AIADMK|
|Chennai Central||SR Vijayakumar, AIADMK|
|Sriperumbudur||KN Ramachandran, AIADMK|
|Kancheepuram||K Maragatham, AIADMK|
|Arakkonam||G Hari, AIADMK|
|Vellore||B. Senguttuvan., AIADMK|
|Krishnagiri||K Ashok Kumar, AIADMK|
|Dharmapuri||Anbumani Ramadoss, PMK|
|Tiruvannamalai||Vanaroja R, AIADMK|
|Arani||V Elumalai, AIADMK|
|Villupuram||Rajendran S., AIADMK|
|Kallakurichi||K. Kamaraj, AIADMK|
|Salem||V Pannerselvam, AIADMK|
|Namakkal||PR Sundaram, AIADMK|
|Erode||S Selvakumara Chinnayan, AIADMK|
|Nilgiris||C Gopalakrishnan, AIADMK|
|Coimbatore||P Nagarajan, AIADMK|
|Pollachi||C Mahendran, AIADMK|
|Dindigul||M Udhayakumar, AIADMK|
|Karur||M Thambidurai, AIADMK|
|Perambalur||RP Marutharajaa, AIADMK|
|Cuddalore||A Arunmozhithevan, AIADMK|
|Chidambaram||M Chandrakasi, AIADMK|
|Mayiladuthurai||RK Bharathi Mohan, AIADMK|
|Nagapattinam||Dr K Gopal, AIADMK|
|Thanjavur||K Parasuraman, AIADMK|
|Sivaganga||PR Senthilnathan, AIADMK|
|Madurai||R Gopalakrishnan, AIADMK|
|Theni||R Parthipan, AIADMK|
|Virudhunagar||Radhakrishnan T., AIADMK|
|Ramanathapuram||Anwhar Raajhaa, AIADMK|
|Thoothukkudi||Jeyasingh Thiyagaraj Natterjee.J, AIADMK|
|Tenkasi||M Vasanthi, AIADMK|
|Kanniyakumari||Pon Radhakrishnan, BJP|
|Nagina||Yashwant Singh, BJP|
|Amroha||Kanwar Singh Tanwar, BJP|
|Bulandshahr||Bhola Singh, BJP|
|Aligarh||Satish Kumar Gautam, BJP|
|Hathras||Ranjan Kumar Diwakar, BJP|
|Mathura||Hema Malini, BJP|
|Agra||Ram Shankar Katheria, BJP|
|Fatehpur Sikri||Chaudhary Babulal, BJP|
|Jalpaiguri||Bijoy Chandra Barman, Trinamool|
|Darjeeling||SS Ahluwalia, BJP|
|Raiganj||Md Salim, CPI(M)|
|Puducherry||R Radhakrishnan, AINRC|