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regular-article-logo Sunday, 26 May 2024

BJP woos minorities in Assam: Pijush Hazarika’s 30-minute speech receives thunderous applause

Last year, government said it had cleared over 32,633 bighas of encroached land belonging to all communities but Muslims top list of landless in state

Umanand Jaiswal Boralimari (Nagaon, Assam) Published 25.04.24, 06:17 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

Tahiruddin, Sahidullah, Asgar Ali and Babar Ali had travelled two-to-three km under a scorching sun to attend a poll rally addressed by Assam cabinet minister Pijush Hazarika on Tuesday afternoon. Though tired by the time the meeting ended, they were visibly happy.

A line in Hazarika’s nearly 30-minute speech aimed at wooing the Bengali-speaking Muslim voters received thunderous applause from the turnout of several thousand, including the quartet. “We will conduct a survey of the char area and return the char land (riverine areas) to the people of char,” said Hazarika, a close confidant of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

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He did not say who the people of char are but chars are mostly occupied by Bengali-speaking Muslims.

Last year, the government said it had cleared over 32,633 bighas of encroached land belonging to all communities but Muslims top the list of landless in the state.

It was a huge statement from a BJP minister as part of the party’s effort to woo the Bengali-speaking Muslim voters in a Muslim-majority Nagaon constituency which goes to vote in the second phase on April 26. The Karimganj seat which votes in the second phase is also Muslim majority.

Darrang-Udalguri (April 26 polling) along with Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Barpeta in lower Assam that go to the polls in the third and last phase on May 7 also have decisive Muslim votes.

The announcement is seen as a slight shift in the campaign pitch by the BJP as the election bandwagon moved from the Hindu and tribal majority Upper Assam to Central Assam, Barak Valley and Lower Assam which has a sizeable Muslim voters. In upper Assam, the BJP campaign focussed on welfare and development schemes.

Political observers say it is wooing the Bengali-speaking Muslim voters by promising land survey in chars and development without discrimination to make a dent in the Muslim vote which is mostly with the Congress and the AIUDF. The Nagaon seat has 18 lakh plus voters of whom more than half are Muslims.

Hazarika’s announcement has understandably fuelled hopes among those who have lost land during eviction drive carried out by the state’s BJP-led government in the area and those who are landless.

This lot included the quartet of Tahiruddin, Sahidullah (from Senimari), Asgar Ali and Babar Ali (from Ladimari) who had lost agricultural land in the chars during one such eviction in February last year.

Tahiruddin said: “We see a ray of hope that we will get back our land. We had been cultivating these land for over 60 years but were evicted on the ground that it was a forest land. Both the minister and the chief minister have said about the survey and return of the land to the char people in their campaign meetings. We are very happy.”

He added: “The announcement will see the BJP doing well in char areas because we depend on our land for our sustenance. People are now the thinking why not BJP?”

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