There was a controversial vote in the Assam State Assembly last week related to two Rajya Sabha seats, where cross voting and alleged “vote wastage” by some Opposition party members helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerge victorious. But what transpired in the aftermath of the vote, brought out the ugliness of the deep-rooted communal beliefs of the highest state government official – the Chief Minister himself.
Countering allegations of support from the Badruddin Ajmal led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “Proof of my actions against Ajmal are evident in Gorukhuti, Lumding and Lahorijan. Let me make one thing clear. I’m not against Ajmal the individual, but his culture.” Sarma said this while speaking to mediapersons in Gauhati. A Facebook clip of the original statement in Assamese as played on Time8, may be viewed here:
It is noteworthy that Badruddin Ajmal is one of the most prominent political leaders from the Muslim community in Assam and the AIUDF, until recently, was an ally of the Opposition Congress party. The Congress has famously been accused of minority appeasement by the BJP for decades and this comes into even sharper focus in Assam where all Bengali speaking Muslims are viewed as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. In fact, it is these Bengali-speaking Muslims who have suffered the most when it comes to the CM’s pet project of ousting “encroachers” and “outsiders” from government land.
One such encroachment removal drive took place in Gorukhuti village that falls in the Dhalpur region of the Sipajhar Circle of the Darrang district of Assam. On September 23, police personnel accompanying civic authorities that were evicting people and demolishing huts in the village opened fire on people when they protested. Two people – 28-year-old daily wage workers Mainul Haque and 12-year-old school boy Sheikh Farid were killed in the firing.
It is noteworthy that Sarma referred to the incident in Gorukhuti as an example of his action against Ajmal’s culture. Sarma had in fact praised the local administration for their sustained campaigns against “encroachers”, and felt no need to take action against them in the firing incident. It is also noteworthy that during the state assembly election campaign last year, Sarma had famously said that he did not need the Miya Muslim vote.
The Rajya Sabha vote controversy
Pabitra Gogoi Magherita of the BJP and Rwngwra Narzary of BJP ally United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) emerged victorious in the Rajya Sabha elections. Other BJP allies included the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) was also supporting them informally. Therefore, they had a total of 82 votes (63 BJP, AGP 9, UPPL 7 and BPF 3). Meanwhile, the Congress (27) had allied with AIUDF (15), CPI (M) and Raijor Dal (one vote each), bringing their total tally to 44. The Congress candidate for Rajya Sabha was Ripun Bora, but he ended up winning only 35 votes, meaning the other 7 votes were either invalid or went to the BJP’s candidate.
It was alleged by the Opposition that AIUDF voted for BJP after arriving at “some understanding” with them. Following this the Congress cut tied with the AIUDF.
This article first appeared on sabrangindia.in