CAA won't impact BJP votes in Assam polls: Himanta

CAA agitation reduced, won't impact BJP votes in Assam polls: Himanta Biswa Sarma

In an interview with DH, Sarma talked about the challenges from the opposition parties, NRC, Badruddin Ajmal, CM candidate and a lot more

He was among the first BJP leaders to reject the NRC when the final list of the exercise in Assam was released in July 2019. He also stood strongly in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, when the anti-CAA agitation brought Assam into a standstill in December that year. The ruling BJP and its leaders became a target of the anti-CAA agitators then.

Ahead of the first phase of the Assembly elections in Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, a minister in Assam and one of the strategists of BJP, claimed that the CAA would not impact the saffron party in the battle of votes.

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In a one-on-one interview with DH’s Sumir Karmakar, Sarma did not mince words in defending the CAA saying Hindus can’t be expelled from India back to Bangladesh and Pakistan. He talked about the challenges from the opposition parties, NRC, Badruddin Ajmal, CM candidate and a lot more.

You have been confidently saying that BJP and the allies will win more than 100 of 126 seats this time. What makes you so confident?

We have run a very successful government in Assam. Not only that, even the Central government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended tremendous help for the development of Assam. People are by and large satisfied. I am of the firm opinion that so people wants the BJP government should come to the power in Assam again.

Read | 9 seats in 2016 Assam Assembly polls reported more NOTA votes than victory margins

But seven Opposition parties led by Congress have teamed up against BJP and say that they will form the next government.

The combination of Congress, whatever they call themselves, will definitely help in consolidating a section of Muslim minority votes in their favour. But on the mainstream or main political landscape of Assam, that combination will have no impact at all.

Your ally in 2016, Bodoland People’s Front have also joined the Opposition alliance this time. Will that not affect BJP, particularly in the Bodoland region?

No. BJP had snapped ties with BPF six months back before the election for Bodoland Territorial Council. We chose the United People’s Party Liberal as our new ally there. So under such a circumstance, it was not possible for BJP to have an alliance with BPF for the Assembly elections.

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Let’s talk about the CAA. BJP is facing the first Assembly elections after anti-CAA agitation in 2019. So what will be the impact of CAA in this election?

I don’t think the CAA will have any impact. Because I have been travelling to the length and breadth of the state, neither journalists put the question on CAA nor people ask questions on the CAA. Post-Covid, the impact of CAA agitation has largely minimised, and now it has become a topic of intellectual debate only.

But the opposition parties, particularly the Congress says BJP in 2016 had promised to protect the identity of the Assamese people. But you have done the opposite by bringing the CAA.

I think that is a perception of the Congress party. In my view, by bringing the CAA, we are going to legitimise basically the migrant Hindu population in our state. This is a humanitarian exercise. Those people had come to Assam during the Congress regime. So the first and the foremost question will be if Congress think that these people are posing a threat to the Assamese culture and Assamese language, why you (Congress) have allowed those people to come into Assam. Not a single Hindu Bangladeshi has come into Assam during the BJP regime. So we are only trying to regularise a particular section, who were given shelter in our Assam by the Congress government. So Congress should pose this question to themselves.

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The Opposition parties are also saying that the CAA is against the Assam Accord of 1985.

I have read Assam Accord and I find no contradiction between the Assam Accord and the CAA. Both are independent exercise. The CAA is to basically protect the bonafide people. And the Assam Accord probably is to expel those who came to Assam post-1971. So you can’t think of expelling the Hindu people to Bangladesh and Pakistan back. So if anybody in India has an idea that they can push back the Hindu people to Bangladesh and Pakistan under today’s situation, I think they live in a fools’ paradise.

Let's talk about Badruddin Ajmal. Why are you so critical of Mr Ajmal?

Because he is a threat to the composite Assamese culture. In Assam, he has been trying to propagate a particular language called Miya (Bengali spoken by Muslims) language, they want to promote certain dance forms, certain poetry, which are directly opposed to the composite Assamese culture. He is also dividing Assam on a communal line. So we need to oppose him and we will continue to oppose him.

Read | Congress allying with outfits that wish to divide nation: Amit Shah at rally in Assam 

Regarding the NRC, many are saying that BJP doesn’t want to complete the NRC.

NRC is an exercise that has been conducted under the direction of the Supreme Court. By and large, the NRC has completed, but we have requested the Supreme Court for a sample re-verification, 20% of the total samples in the districts sharing a border with Bangladesh and 10% of samples in the rest of Assam. So either way, once the Supreme Court gives a verdict, I think the NRC will be published.

Last question about the CM candidate. There is speculation in Assam that you will become the next CM.

In BJP nobody can say I will be the CM, he will be the CM. It is completely a prerogative of our Parliamentary party, which includes the Prime Minister, the party president, Home Minister, the defence minister. So it is those personalities, who are going to decide. We are no one.