Badruddin Ajmal at a poll rally. Picture by UB Photos
Shajeda Yasmin, 27, of Fulkakata village, is an educated and smart woman living on the outskirts of Dhubri town.
She turns up in a burqa when she ventures out, covers her face and bows when she comes across the poster of a man who wears several hats — a maulana, a pir, a businessman and a politician — at the same time.
Asked about her reverence for Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, Yasmin said: “He is like a father figure to most of us. He shows us the way and teaches us sanctity. Women bow before him as they revere him mostly because of his good qualities such as honesty, dedication and devotion to Allah. He has a huge following.”
Like Yasmin, Phool Nehar Begum, 35, of Chalakura sar village in Dhubri district, too, has deep respect for Ajmal and believes that he is a torch-bearer.
“Hazur saab is like a farista (angel of Allah) and we find all the good qualities in him to follow. Tell me which candidate in the fray possesses the qualities he has been bestowed with?” Begum asked.
Such is the impact and influence of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, the AIUDF chief and sitting MP seeking re-election from Dhubri.
It has been a command performance in absentia by any account. He has gone from strength to strength in nine years since the formation of the AIUDF in 2005 after Ajmal fell out with chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
Ajmal is engaged in a keen contest with the Congress’s Wazed Ali Choudhury and Debamoy Sanyal of the BJP in the April 24 battle for Dhubri. Besides them, there are 12 more candidates in the fray, including Ajmal Hussain from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Ajmal and his party boast about grabbing the lion’s share of 753,446 women’s votes out of 15,48,849 votes in Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency.
The AIUDF enjoys another advantage. It has seven legislators out of 10 Assembly constituencies that form the Dhubri Lok Sabha seat.
Ajmal secured 51 per cent of total votes in 2009 Lok Sabha polls. At that time the difference of shares of votes between the AIUDF and the Congress was 19 per cent, but in Assembly elections, the party’s vote share dwindled to 39 per cent in 2011 and difference of vote share between the two parties was a mere 1.67 per cent.
The AIUDF camp is not worried about the difference. The party still hopes that Ajmal’s charisma will turn the tables on his rivals in minority-dominated areas.
“It is bye-bye to Congress candidate Wazed Ali Choudhury this time. People know what I have done for them and how I highlighted their problems in Parliament,” Ajmal said.
Sources in the AIUDF claimed that Ajmal had spoken 68.5 minutes in Parliament and raised the burning problems of this area, including reopening of Rupshi airport, river port and introduction of railway communication. In the party manifesto, the AIUDF has made tall promises, but Choudhury left no stone unturned to term Ajmal a “failed” MP.
“What shall I say about Ajmal? His failures can be measured by one thing — he could not spend the total amount allotted to the MP local area development fund. Moreover, he could not implement anything he promised to the voters,” Choudhury said.
He alleged that Ajmal had promised that he would purchase WIMCO (a match factory) and employ youths of Dhubri in it and also in his private companies but none of these were fulfilled. Choudhury assured voters of implementing anti-erosion work in Dhubri district and resolve the D-voter issue. He would pursue the state government to make the South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision a district soon if he was elected, he added.
BJP candidate Debamoy Sanyal, too, is going strong and banking on division of votes between the AIUDF and the Congress to see him through.
l Dhubri votes on April 24