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Polygamy, child marriage not poll issues in Assam: CM Himanta

Sarma also said that there will be 'contest' in three out of 14 Lok Sabha seats where the BJP-led NDA is fighting in Assam, while it will be a clean sweep for the saffron party in the remaining 11 seats of the state.
Last Updated : 09 April 2024, 06:46 IST
Last Updated : 09 April 2024, 06:46 IST

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Titabor, Assam: Terming polygamy, child marriage and other subjects related to 'Miya' community as non-issues in Lok Sabha elections, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that he was raising these problems as he wants social transformation of the minorities and not their votes.

In an interview with PTI at Titabor in Jorhat, Sarma also said that there will be 'contest' in three out of 14 Lok Sabha seats where the BJP-led NDA is fighting in Assam, while it will be a clean sweep for the saffron party in the remaining 11 seats of the state.

"I always say that getting votes is a different thing. We want to see real development for the minority community. Now, whether they give me votes or I ask for their votes -- that is immaterial," he said when asked if he has revisited his earlier stand of not seeking 'Miya' votes for BJP.

'Miya' is originally a pejorative term used for Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam and the non-Bengali speaking people generally identify them as Bangladeshi immigrants. In recent years, activists from the community have started adopting this term as a gesture of defiance.

"The material thing that the community should prosper. If polygamy is prevalent in that community, how will they prosper? If child marriage is continued, how will they prosper?" Sarma asked.

Likewise, if girl children are not introduced into education or not given equal rights of property, then the 'Miya' community will not progress compared to other segments of the society, he added.

"So, my approach towards the minority community is on a positive platform. Stop Madrassa education, bring students to general education, stop polygamy, stop child marriage, give equal rights of property to girls or females. I am going to the minority areas of Assam and not discussing votes. But I am talking about these issues. You will see me in this election visiting different minority areas and I will speak only about these issues," the chief minister asserted.

Asked if topics like polygamy or child marriage are election issues, he replied in negative.

"These are not election issues for me. These are the issues through which we can bring social transformation to the state of Assam. Election is election, but my goal is bigger than election. So, I am using electoral politics to achieve those goals. I will go to minority areas, I will not say vote or not vote. I will say these are the issues, which are dear to my heart," Sarma said.

In October last year, the NEDA convenor had said the BJP would not need votes of 'Miya' people of Char areas (riverine vegetative islands) for the next 10 years till they reform themselves by leaving aside old practices like child marriage.

However, he softened his stand and in February this year said that he would not seek 'Miya' votes for the next two years as a lot of welfare works like drive against child marriage and encroachment need to be completed before that.

Last month during an election campaign meeting at Morigaon, Sarma further diluted his stand and exuded confidence that girls, women and youths from the 'Miya' community would vote for the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state due to the good work done to uplift these sections of the minority population.

When asked about the challenge posed by the unified opposition during the Lok Sabha polls, the senior BJP leader told PTI: "I don't think there is any contest in Assam except in three seats. First of all, whatever the so-called opposition unity is, that has no bearing at all. Because none of the opposition parties has any vote bank in Assam."

As the vote share of dozens of opposition parties in the anti-BJP bloc is very negligible, the main opponents remain Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), he added.

"Our fight will be confined only to three seats and in the rest of the 11 seats, there is no fight. There will be a clean sweep for the party," Sarma said.

He, however, declined to name the three seats where the BJP-led alliance will face competition from the opposition candidates.

In the ruling NDA, the BJP has named 11 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) nominated two and United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) declared one candidate.

From the initial assessment of winning 11 seats from Assam, Sarma had later upped the possible tally to 13 winning candidates.

Asked for reasons to lower the number of sure seats, he said: 'As the election progresses, we are showing good progress in two seats out of those three seats. Our party survey is also showing that we are getting good traction.

"So, I will put 11 as a minimum and we can go up to 13 out of 14 seats -- that is my assessment. I think we are on our target."

The BJP has nine MPs from the state in the current Lok Sabha, while the Congress holds three seats and the AIUDF one. There is one Independent MP also.

Talking about the ongoing election campaign, Sarma said it is all about the good work done by the central government for the Northeast region and Assam, and the peace, tranquillity, development witnessed post-2014 in the state.

"So, the entire fulcrum of the election campaign is Narendra Modi. Election is centred around his tremendous development work done for Assam, and his emotional and cultural bonding with the state. He (Modi) visited 26 times as PM, he always dons Assamese Gamocha, he stayed one night in Kaziranga and recently he came to Assam to dedicate a giant statue of Lachit Borphukan," Sarma added.

Asked about his dance moves, which have gone viral, during the campaign trail, the chief minister explained that Assam is culturally very rich and music has an important role in everyone's life.

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Published 09 April 2024, 06:46 IST

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