Guwahati, Sept. 21: Moves by a section of AICC leaders to broker some kind of a tie-up with the Opposition AIUDF has left most of the Congress’s Muslim leaders in Assam a worried lot.
Such efforts in the past have failed to yield the desired results because of chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s steadfast refusal to break bread with the AIUDF. The riots in the BTAD, its apparent fallout on the Muslim population and AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal’s emergence as a pan-India Muslim voice have once again made this AICC section active.
Minority leaders, who met the chief minister last evening, admitted to The Telegraph that the BTAD riots have seen Ajmal establish himself as a key minority politician by the way he allegedly exploited the situation to the AIUDF’s advantage even though the Congress had been actively involved in maintaining peace, distributing relief and trying to ensure hassle-free rehabilitation.
“The AIUDF was all over the place, in Assam and outside, highlighting the sufferings faced by more than three lakh displaced Muslims, mobilising support and resources, organising protests and projecting the Congress in Assam anti-Muslim. The riots impacted the Muslims because most were being branded as illegal Bangladeshis, leaving the AICC fearing the worst vis-ŕ-vis the decisive minority vote in the next Lok Sabha elections. This has been exploited by the AICC section close to the AIUDF,” a minority leader said.
The fear is not unfounded. During his visit to the riot-hit areas in August-end, AICC secretary Parvez Hashmi had told The Telegraph, “The situation in BTAD had made the Congress’s position awkward outside the BTAD. In Assam it is seen as ethnic cleansing but outside the incidents were being given communal colour.” When prodded, he admitted that the BTAD fallout would have an impact in the next general elections if remedial measures were not initiated at the earliest.
Minority leaders, however, asserted that the Congress cannot go with the AIUDF. “It not only loses the Hindu vote but also concede its space to the AIUDF as it has done in the BTAD,” one of them explained.
They are now impressing upon Gogoi to expedite the NRC update so that other parties and organisations, especially the AIUDF, can’t take credit, besides ensuring early rehabilitation of the displaced Muslims on the basis of the 2011 voters list and other relevant government records.
“Delay in rehab will only help the AIUDF,” the leader said. They are also impressing upon the need to stage dharnas in Delhi, like the Bodo organisations and the AIUDF, articulating the plight of minorities.
“Politics is also about perception and we are losing it vis-ŕ-vis the AIUDF,” a wary MLA said.
The AIUDF, formed in 2005 to espouse the cause of minorities, is ironically a UPA partner in Delhi but the leading Opposition party in Assam.
From 10 MLAs in 2006, the party today has 18 MLAs, 16 of whom are Muslims, compared to 11 MLAs of the Congress in the 126-member Assembly.