Political drama in Assam confused people throughout 2018


Mukut Das

The ‘war of words’ between the alliance partners – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) –  garnered the maximum buzz and grabbed the political spotlight in 2018.

The year started with massive protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 across the state. The year ended with another shocker for the agitating bodies when all the opposition-sponsored amendments in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) of the proposed controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 were defeated on December 31, 2018.

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The JPC, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, will finalise the draft in the next meeting which is scheduled to be held on January 3. In all likelihood, the JPC will submit its report in Parliament on January 7 in its original form as the winter session is coming to an end on January 8.

While BJP’s Dispur MLA Atul Bora raised voice against the Centre’s move to grant Indian citizenship by implementing the Bill; the AGP has allegedly played a ‘double standard role’ on the issue.

The AGP, though,have reiterated its strong opposition to the Bill saying it would break the coalition if the Bill is passed by the Parliament, seemed incapable of fulfilling its promises made before the 2016 Assembly election to work for the greater interest of the indigenous people of the state.

The Congress accused the ‘power hungry’ AGP of betraying the indigenous people of the state just to remain in power.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) have been leading different camps on the same issue.

The firebrand leader and KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi on the last day of 2018 had appealed all the opposition parties and the organisations including AASU to come together to fight against BJP’s ‘crony-capitalism’.

Gogoi, while launching a blistering attack on the BJP, announced an indefinite hunger strike on the first day of the 2019 against the Center’s move to table the Bill in the Parliament stating that it would ‘jeopardise the identity of the indigenous people of the state.’

Moreover, prominent intellectuals of the state including Dr Hiren Gohain also opposed the Bill.

It may be recalled that the ULFA-I’s ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah had also urged the Government of India to withdraw the Bill immediately.

Meanwhile, pro-talk ULFA leader Anup Chetia in a press conference in Guwahati on November 4 last year said that the organization has been pressurized by the Centre not to speak on the sensitive issues including the Bill issue as it was part of the peace talk with the Centre.

On the other hand, BJP’s Hojai legislator and controversies favourite child, Shiladitya Dev made various ‘provocative’ statements on the Bill issue for which most of the political parties and organizations demanded his arrest.

Another issue of the year 2018 that created an air of uncertainty was the updation exercise of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

BJP’s national president Amit Shah’s inconspicuous statement over the NRC issue that the historic Assam Accord was the ‘soul’ of the NRC created uproar among the people of the state. This led to another round of agitation across the state.

BJP’s opportunistic statements both at the Centre and State on the issue confused the people throughout the year. The saffron party, on the one hand, said it would implement the Assam Accord in “letter and spirit” and on the other hand, it pushed for implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The Congress and BJP also got engaged in the credit-claiming race on the NRC issue. While the Congress claimed the ‘NRC was its baby’; the saffron party slammed the Congress for doing nothing on the illegal immigrants issue.

Questions were also raised if state coordinator for the NRC Prateek Hajela has become a ‘victim’ of vested political interests.

A total of 40,07,707 names were excluded in the final draft of the NRC which was published on July 30 last year.

Abhijit Sharma, general secretary, Assam Public Works, shared that the whole episode on the NRC throughout the year indicates a dire consequence to be faced by the people of the state.

“We will continue our fight alone in the Supreme Court for an error-free NRC,” Sharma said. Sharma also slammed the government’s ‘intentional drama’ over the NRC issue.

The political transformation in 2019 will be very crucial since the general election will be held this year. Moreover, BJP’s dismal performance in the recently declared assembly elections – Mizoram, Telegana, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan – is considered as a major concern ahead of the general election though the party denies any impact of the results on the people.