|Students attend an election rally at Bherbheri.
Picture by author
Voters in Mangaldoi have become a demanding lot, seeking commitment, not promises.
Himangshu Nath, a resident and young advocate, said, “There is no rail link to Mangaldoi. Work on the four-lane highway project from Baihata Chariali to Dhemaji on the north bank of the Brahmaputra is yet to be commissioned,” he said.
Pankaj Bordoloi, a college student, said: “I have made up my mind not to waste my vote. We want candidates who will give priority to the major issues plaguing the people of Mangaldoi constituency. We want commitment, not hollow promises.”
Apart from seeking commitment and improved communication, there are also the likes of Mostak Hussein, who wants recognition for the indigenous culture. “The peasant uprising of Patharighat is yet to get national recognition owing to the poor performance of our representative in Delhi. The rich Darrangi folk culture is still neglected.” he said.
Patharighat, under Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency, witnessed a peasant uprising in 1894, in which more than 100 people died. It is in this discerning backdrop that political parties are wooing voters.
At Bherbheri, about 40km from Mangaldoi, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi tried to woo the minority voters for Congress candidate Kirip Chaliha, saying his party would not allow “genuine Indians” to be harassed in the name of deporting foreigners.
A kilometre from the venue, security personnel on both sides of the road check every vehicle coming in and out of the area. “Information mila hai (we have received information),” said a jawan, perhaps indicating movement of the NDFB (S) cadres, who have been active in the area.
Chaliha replaced Madhab Rajbongshi after he lost the elections twice to the BJP candidate. Rajbongshi won the elections in 1998 and 1999 and is said to have strengthened the Congress bastion in the constituency. This time, he is contesting on an AGP ticket and is being backed by the KMSS.
The BJP, which has won the Mangaldoi seat in 2004 and 2009, too, has gone all out to woo voters by getting its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to campaign for its sitting MP Ramen Deka.
The movement for and against creation of Bodoland is also a major factor in Mangaldoi.
Non-Bodos had boycotted the earlier elections as a protest against inclusion of some non-Bodo dominated villages in the BTAD. But this time they will vote to seek a solution.
The Non-Bodo Sangram Samitee, a forum of non-Bodos, has said they would support the candidate or party who promise to take initiative to cut their villages from the BTAD.
Purna Kanta Mahanta, executive president of Samittee, said the residents of Bamunjhar and Katara in Sipajhar, have been unfurling the black flag since 2000 in protest against the inclusion of non-Bodo villages in the BTAD.
Besides Deka, Chaliha and Rajbongshi, the other nine in the fray are Sahadev Das (BPF), Paresh Baishya (AIUDF), Deba Kumar Barman (Trinamul Congress), Ratul Kumar Choudhury (Samajwadi Party), Namrata Sharma (AAP), Swarnalata Chaliha (SUCI), Arun Barooah (RDSC) and Independent candidates Sachindra Nath Brahma and Sahanur Ali.
In 2009, BJP’s Ramen Deka won by getting 3,07,881 votes while the Congress candidate Madhab Rajbongshi got 2,52,032 votes and the AIUDF candidate Bidiuj Zaman got 1,80,422 votes.
The constituency has 1,507,368 voters.
l Mangaldoi votes on April 24