Lok Sabha elections 2019: Will Assam’s bridges bring votes?

The BJP is hoping to make up for its possible loss of seats in the areas, where it peaked in 2014, by winning as many seats in regions like the northeast. Seven out of 14 Lok Sabha members from Assam belong to the BJP.
Congress leader Rhituporna Konwar insisted most work happened during the Congress rule and people know it. “If the BJP will benefit for completing the bridges, the Congress will also get votes for doing the work.”
Congress leader Rhituporna Konwar insisted most work happened during the Congress rule and people know it. “If the BJP will benefit for completing the bridges, the Congress will also get votes for doing the work.”
Updated on Apr 11, 2019 07:08 AM IST
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Dibrugarh/Dhemaji/Likabali/Tinsukia/Sadia/Roing (Assam/Arunachal Pradesh) | BySadiq Naqvi

Maja Pegu worked as a smalltime contractor and earned around ~20,000 monthly until the 4.9-km Bogibeel Bridge over the Brahmaputra was opened in December and connected his isolated Kolajan village in Assam’s Dhemaji district to Dibrugarh, the region’s main city 40 km away.

The village could earlier be reached only by ferry. Steams of visitors now stop there on their way to neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh and other districts of Assam. A row of newly-built roadside food stalls has come up to cater to them. The stalls, including that of Pegu, are doing brisk business thanks to the bridge. “Now I do a business of ~10,000 daily. It is all because of the bridge,” said Pegu, who belongs to the Mising community. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge in December. Prior to this, he inaugurated the country’s longest bridge — nine-km long Bhupen Hazarika Setu — in 2017, six years after its construction began in 2011. Bogibeel is the longest rail-cum-road bridge and is located 100 km away. The BJP is touting the two bridges as its big achievements as it is hoping to win as many as 21 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the northeast. The BJP swept to power in 2014 on the back of its performance in its western and north Indian strongholds like Uttar Pradesh, where it won 71 out of 80 seats.

The BJP is hoping to make up for its possible loss of seats in the areas, where it peaked in 2014, by winning as many seats in regions like the northeast. Seven out of 14 Lok Sabha members from Assam belong to the BJP.

“The bridges have connected the South Bank and the North Bank of the river reducing travel time. We will definitely get more votes,” said BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami.

Congress leader Rhituporna Konwar insisted most work happened during the Congress rule and people know it. “If the BJP will benefit for completing the bridges, the Congress will also get votes for doing the work.”

The bridges have opened up new avenues for the locals.

“It takes lesser time and lesser money to get to a hospital in Dibrugarh,” said Saraswati Sarkar from Arnichar Basti in Dhemaji district.” For the residents of Likabali town in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Siang district, the Bogibeel Bridge has cut down the time needed to travel to Assam by 18 hours and has boosted religious tourism and business. “It was like a fair this time. Too many people came to visit the Malinithan [ruins of a Hindu temple] in January,” said T Taipodia, a shopkeeper.

Dokar Taipodia, a member of the dominant Galo tribe of Lower Siang, said the bridge has boosted the region’s stone crushing business. Muchu Mithi, a National People’s Party candidate for the Arunachal Pradesh assembly elections said more needs to be done. “While improvement in communication may have been the immediate benefit of the bridge, the economic potential can only be realised once the policies are changed allowing more investments,” he said.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021