Today in New Delhi, India
May 20, 2019-Monday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

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.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 18, 2019 09:40 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Silchar (Assam):
lok sabha elections 2019,lok sabha polls in assam,voting in silchar
File photo of a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Guwahati on May 7, 2018.(AFP)

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.

Follow Lok Sabha elections Phase 2 LIVE Updates here

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.

Also Read | Lok Sabha election 2019: 5 Assam seats up for grabs in second phase of polling

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.

ConstituencySitting MP
Assam
KarimganjRadheshyam Biswas, AIUDF
SilcharSushmita Dev, Congress
Autonomous DistrictBiren Singh Engti, Congress
MangaldoiRamen Deka, BJP
NawgongRajen Gohain, BJP
Bihar
KishanganjMohammad Asrarul Haque, Congress
KatiharShah Tariq Anwar, NCP
PurniaSantosh Kumar, JD(U)
BhagalpurShailesh Kumar (Bulo Mandal), RJD
BankaJai Prakash Narayan Yadav, RJD
Chhattisgarh
RajnandgaonAbhishek Singh, BJP
MahasamundChandulal Sahu, BJP
KankerVikram Dev Usendi, BJP
Jammu and Kashmir
SrinagarFarooq Abdullah, National Conference
UdhampurDr. Jitendra Singh, BJPs
Karnataka
Udupi ChikmagalurShobha Karandlaje, BJP
HassanH.D. Deve Gowda, JD(S)
Dakshina KannadaNalin Kumar Kateel, BJP
ChitradurgaB.N.Chandrappa, Congress
TumkurS. P. Muddahanumegowda, Congress
MandyaCS Puttaraju, JD(S)
MysorePrathap Simha, BJP
ChamrajanagarR Dhruvanarayana, Congress
Bangalore RuralDK Suresh, Congress
Bangalore NorthDV Sadananda Gowda, BJP
Bangalore CentralPC Mohan, BJP
Bangalore SouthVacant after Ananth Kumar’s death in 2018
ChikkaballapurVeerappa Moily, Congress
KolarKH Muniyappa, Congress
Maharashtra
BuldhanaJadhav Prataprao Ganpatrao, Shiv Sena
AkolaDhotre Sanjay Shamrao, BJP
AmravatiAdsul Anandrao Vithoba, Shiv Sena
HingoliRajeev Shankarrao Satav, Congress
NandedAshok Shankarrao Chavan, Congress
ParbhaniJadhav Sanjay (Bandu) Haribhau, Shiv Sena
BeedPritam Gopinathrao Munde, BJP
OsmanabadGaikwad Ravindra Vishwanath, Shiv Sena
LaturDr. Sunil Baliram Gaikwad, BJP
SolapurSharad Bansode, BJP
Manipur
Inner ManipurThokchom Meinya, Congress
Odisha
BargarhPrabas Kumar Singh, BJD
SundargarhJual Oram, BJP
BolangirKalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, BJD
KandhamalPratyusha Rajeshwari Singh, BJD
AskaLadu Kishore Swain, BJD
ConstituencySitting MP
Tamil Nadu
TiruvallurDr. P. Venugopal, AIADMK
Chennai NorthTG Venkatesh Babu, AIADMK
Chennai SouthJ Jayavardhan, AIADMK
Chennai CentralSR Vijayakumar, AIADMK
SriperumbudurKN Ramachandran, AIADMK
KancheepuramK Maragatham, AIADMK
ArakkonamG Hari, AIADMK
VelloreB. Senguttuvan., AIADMK
KrishnagiriK Ashok Kumar, AIADMK
DharmapuriAnbumani Ramadoss, PMK
TiruvannamalaiVanaroja R, AIADMK
AraniV Elumalai, AIADMK
VillupuramRajendran S., AIADMK
KallakurichiK. Kamaraj, AIADMK
SalemV Pannerselvam, AIADMK
NamakkalPR Sundaram, AIADMK
ErodeS Selvakumara Chinnayan, AIADMK
TiruppurV.Sathyabama, AIADMK
NilgirisC Gopalakrishnan, AIADMK
CoimbatoreP Nagarajan, AIADMK
PollachiC Mahendran, AIADMK
DindigulM Udhayakumar, AIADMK
KarurM Thambidurai, AIADMK
TiruchirappalliKumar.P, AIADMK
PerambalurRP Marutharajaa, AIADMK
CuddaloreA Arunmozhithevan, AIADMK
ChidambaramM Chandrakasi, AIADMK
MayiladuthuraiRK Bharathi Mohan, AIADMK
NagapattinamDr K Gopal, AIADMK
ThanjavurK Parasuraman, AIADMK
SivagangaPR Senthilnathan, AIADMK
MaduraiR Gopalakrishnan, AIADMK
TheniR Parthipan, AIADMK
VirudhunagarRadhakrishnan T., AIADMK
RamanathapuramAnwhar Raajhaa, AIADMK
ThoothukkudiJeyasingh Thiyagaraj Natterjee.J, AIADMK
TenkasiM Vasanthi, AIADMK
TirunelvelliPrabakaran.K.R.P, AIADMK
KanniyakumariPon Radhakrishnan, BJP
Uttar Pradesh
NaginaYashwant Singh, BJP
AmrohaKanwar Singh Tanwar, BJP
BulandshahrBhola Singh, BJP
AligarhSatish Kumar Gautam, BJP
HathrasRanjan Kumar Diwakar, BJP
MathuraHema Malini, BJP
AgraRam Shankar Katheria, BJP
Fatehpur SikriChaudhary Babulal, BJP
West Bengal
JalpaiguriBijoy Chandra Barman, Trinamool
DarjeelingSS Ahluwalia, BJP
RaiganjMd Salim, CPI(M)
Puducherry
PuducherryR Radhakrishnan, AINRC

First Published: Apr 18, 2019 09:40 IST