Congress trying to play dirty politics over CAA ahead of Lok Sabha polls, says Sonowal

'Congress ruled for more than 60 years, they miserably failed to explore the potential of our nation. The country did not get good treatment in the hands of Congress because of a lack of policy, lack of vision and lack of honesty'
Last Updated : 12 April 2024, 16:39 IST
Last Updated : 12 April 2024, 16:39 IST

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Sarbananda Sonowal became BJP's face of identity politics in Assam in 2011 when he joined the party from Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which was formed following the six-year-long anti-foreigners movement (1979-1985). Riding on the Narendra Modi wave, BJP formed its first government in Assam in 2016 with Sonowal as the CM. Protecting the identity of the indigenous people was his government's prime slogan. He, however, was replaced by Himanta Biswa Sarma as the CM in 2021. Sonowal drew a lot of criticism when the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was passed in 2019 and the rules for its implementation were released recently. During a chat, Sonowal told DH's Sumir Karmakar that the Opposition-led by Congress are trying to play dirty politics by spreading misinformation regarding the CAA and that it would have no negative impact on BJP in the elections as people know the truth.

You were elected to the Lok Sabha from Dibrugarh as an AGP candidate in 2004 and again from Lakhimpur in 2014 from BJP. Any specific reason, you chose to contest from Dibrugarh again?

We have to work for people everywhere in Assam and the country and that is the sense of commitment we have been carrying. So, whenever the party entrusts some responsibility, being a disciplined soldier of the party, we have to discharge it. So, I have the same feeling of 2004 and 2009 (lost), when I contested from Dibrugarh. During my tenure, many big projects came, such as work for the Bogibeel bridge over the Brahmaputra river and the foundation of the gas cracker project was laid. Later on, when I joined the BJP, I got a lot of opportunities and support to work for the people of Assam under the dynamic leadership of PM Narendra Modi. Today, Assam is prospering and growing fast and you have seen the transformation.

You are a very important minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet. How confident are you about PM's Mission 400+?

Everywhere, when I connect with the people, the jubilant faces speak volumes about their level of satisfaction. In the last 10 years, it is a fact that whatever connectivity and communication in all the institutional mechanisms has grown, it is because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress ruled for more than 60 years, they miserably failed to explore the potential of our nation. We have a diversity of cultures, community and language, we have full potential with immense natural resources, biodiversity and cultural resources everywhere in the country. Even then, this resourceful nation did not get good treatment in the hands of Congress because of a lack of policy, lack of vision and lack of honesty. In the past 10 years, Modiji has brought transformation because he has innovative ideas for making better policies and better direction. All the policies are also being implemented within the timeframe, that too with quality and people's participation. That is why India is prospering and growing faster.

The Opposition parties claim BJP had promised to protect the identity and culture of the people but the party took a U-turn by implementing the CAA. In Assam, you successfully fought a legal battle to scrap the IMDT Act but now you support the CAA?

The CAA is a national law, but the IMDT was a law of discrimination and was imposed only on Assam. The CAA is for the whole nation. However, the Opposition parties are spreading misinterpretation regarding the CAA. The CAA is not going to impact the indigenous people. Because the whole nation has taken the responsibility of the migrants, who faced religious persecution and took shelter in India. Congress is trying to play dirty politics. The so-called anti-CAA leaders tried to create a false narrative that the CAA would result in lakhs of Hindu Bangladeshis settling in Assam and thereby posing a threat indigenous people of Assam. But look at the reality today. It has been a month since the MHA launched a web portal for applying for Indian citizenship but till date, only one person in Assam has applied. The people of Assam have understood their politics and so this time there is no agitation against the CAA. Leading students organisations like the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) have gone to the Supreme Court, that is the right way of proceeding. If we have any objection, file a petition in the court of law, just as I had done against the IMDT Act.

BJP is projecting Ram Mandir as one of its biggest achievements. Do you think it will help the BJP?

It will help because in Assam also, when we pray, we pray in the name of Krishna, Ram, Govinda..that is the way of life. This has been part of our culture and social existence, across the country.

What is your hope about the party's performance in the Northeast, where the party faced a lot of criticism over the Manipur conflict?

In the Northeast, the NDA is poised to secure more than 22 seats, out of 25. The driving force behind this remains consistent: the effective implementation of government schemes. After a decade of good governance, citizens are confident that re-electing Narendra Modi ji will ensure the continuity of good governance. Our unwavering commitment to restoring peace and fostering development in Manipur remains steadfast, and those responsible for disruptions will be held accountable without exception. Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the NDA government has worked tirelessly to bring about lasting peace in the Northeast. The inefficient governance of Congress hindered progress in addressing these issues. But, things started to change with Modiji’s assuming the leadership in 2014. Today, violence linked to insurgent groups has significantly decreased, and insurgent organisations have been dismantled and neutralised.

Do you think the election is going to be a fight between the concept of identity politics and the slogan of development of the Narendra Modi government?

I believe this is an election that will reaffirm the commitment shown by the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to securing the rights of indigenous people and preserving the rich identity of our dynamic society through socio-economic empowerment. Development is not necessarily only related to the infrastructure or physical construction of roads, buildings, electrification and so on, but also the steps that have enhanced the quality of life and improved standards of living with policies that are the hallmark of a thriving welfare country. I don’t believe there is a dichotomy between identity politics and development they are complementing each other to build an inclusive society where one is reinforcing the other.

The Opposition parties say the BJP is doing the development to push its polarisation politics to win elections?

The allegation by the opposition does not have any rationale. Every welfare scheme of the government is being implemented across the length and breadth of the country. When the road is made, or a bridge is constructed, or Jan Dhan bank accounts were opened, or Ujjwala scheme, or DBT, or UPI and so many other policy initiatives are designed, it is for all. This not only builds a strong foundation of an inclusive environment but one that is in sync with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas Sabka Vishwas Sabka Prayas’. The Modi government has been working on the aspect of development as a tool of socio-economic change of the society to make it more inclusive and pro-people. Given this approach, the BJP-led NDA government has successfully pulled out 25 crore Indians from abject poverty, a feat that shuns all these baseless allegations by the opposition.

Protecting the identity of the indigenous Assamese was the slogan of your government in Assam (2016-2021). How far has the BJP fulfilled that promise?

The BJP government has prioritised safeguarding the interests of 'Bhumiputras' (sons of the soil) by granting them land rights, which were deprived under six decades of Congress misrule. As a result, till date since 2016, the BJP government has provided land rights to over 5.80 lakh indigenous people over their land. And this will always be a priority for us. Indigenous individuals need not worry about their heritage, as the BJP is always committed to securing, protecting, and promoting it.

Published 12 April 2024, 16:39 IST

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