The BJP’s political pitch in Assam | HT Editorial
Assam is important to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — not just because it is the biggest state in the Northeast but because it is seen as the gateway to the region. In the party’s worldview, Assam is a site of contestation between those seeking greater integration with the nation and those who have sought to retain a distinct, sub-national identity for Assam. It is also a state where the battle of demographics — between those who consider themselves indigenous and those who are seen as “outsiders”, primarily Muslims from Bangladesh — has been fought.
And that is why BJP president JP Nadda’s visit to the state to prepare for assembly polls is significant. The BJP promised to deport immigrants in the 2016 election. Under the Supreme Court’s order, the National Register of Citizens was updated — but this process was flawed, had tremendous humanitarian consequences, and left all sides unhappy. To offset the exclusion from the NRC process, the BJP was seen to have brought in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act — but this riled Assam even more because the resentment is targeted at all outsiders, irrespective of religion, while the BJP was accused of creating room for entry of outsiders who may share the majority religious faith.
But it speaks of how quickly politics evolves that while the issue of immigrants remains contentious, the BJP’s own campaign is focused on leadership, governance and alliances in sub-regions — the absence of a strong opposition helps. Even as it starts out as the favourite, the BJP must be careful in how it navigates the historical tensions on identity in the region.