Assam Elections: Facts and Factors
The first round of polling for the Assembly elections in Assam will take place on April 4. Commentators and those who are following the political scenario are divided on whether there is even an overarching issue in this largest state of Northeast India which has been governed by the Congress since last 15 years now.
Last year, the Congress faced a major dissidence and a strong Congress satrap Himanta Biswa Sarna switched sides to the BJP along with his MLA’s. At that point one wondered whether 79 years old Tarun Gogoi would be able to retain the state for the Congress or not. As political developments unraveled in the aftermath of the Bihar elections, politics unraveled in Assam too. BJP formed an alliance with BPF (Bodoland People’s Front), formally with the Congress party and its last minute alliance with AGP despite massive dissidence in the rank of files of both parties is trying to depict as if the real opposition in Assam is them. Actually the real sitting opposition in Assam is AIUDF, the party of perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, who surprisingly won the same amount of Lok Sabha seats (3) as the Congress and is well known for supporting illegal Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam.
BJP also announced Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (formerly with AASU and AGP) as its Chief Ministerial candidate.
The Congress is fighting alone, barring an electoral understanding with a small UPP party of Bodos, the odds look stack against the Congress, but the reality may be different. The Congress party is banking on the support of tea garden workers, tribals, rural vote, SC,ST’s and other traditional Congress voters as well as the failures of the Modi Government. Although there might be some anti-incumbency in the state, the Tarun Gogoi is known for weathering it for two consecutive times with much better results in 2011. Scores of student leaders and various second rung leaders have recently joined Congress. In a massive show of strength, just last month, 60 big leaders from various other political parties including two sitting MLA’s joined the Congress. Hence a Congress supporter should be somewhat relieved that the party is trying hard to retain the land of Brhamaputra.
Here are certain facts, factors and issues of the Assam elections which would certainly be useful for a Congress supporter-
Congress Achievements in Assam
Scenario when AGP-BJP was in Power
· The Assam Economy under previous BJP-AGP alliance grew at less than 2% Growth Rate
· There was climate of violence and the gruesome secret killings took place then
· The State Coffers were empty and the State Government could not even afford to give salaries to its employees. There were no new jobs. State Government servants were forced to commit suicides.
· Agriculture Growth in 2000-2001 was negative at -1.5%
Scenario after 15 years of Congress Government
· Restoration of Peace and Normalcy has taken place.
· Effective Counter Insurgency and Better Law and Order has yielded results
· Many groups have left violence
· During the last 10 years, the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of Assam has shown a favourable growth.
· The rate of growth of GSDP was 4.07% in 2001-02 which has increased to 14.85% in 2013-14
· As per Economic Survey, Assam has now surpassed the Country's Growth in Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) with 12.5% in 2013-14 and 15.9% in 2014-15. While the National Growth Rate is 11.1%
· Agriculture Growth which was negative in 2000-2001 has touched almost 5% in 2014-15
· During the last fourteen years from 2000-01, Assam has achieved 40% increase in the contribution of Agriculture to GDP
· Assam has been able to lower Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) by 14 points from 68 in 2005 to 54 in 2013, Yet it is still below all India average of 40
· Similarly, due to Assam Government's efforts, we have reduced the Maternal Mortality Rate by 180 points (from 480 in 2004-06 to 300 in 2011-13)
· 23764 km length of blacktop roads have been constructed in the state from 2002 to 2015.
· 3500 Bridges on Road were built in Assam and Assam Govt constructed 6 new bridges on Brahmaputra.
· Almost 17 lakh IAY houses have been constructed between 2001- 2015
· Out of School Children (OSC) have been reduced from 24.38% in 2002-03 to just 1.64% in 2014-15
· More than 72000 teachers have been appointed in Primary and Secondary Schools
· More than 13 Lakh people in Assam are working under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA
· 8 Lakh people benefitted from Rural Electrification Scheme of UPA in Assam- Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana
· Assam Govt was the first to start Assam Arogya Nidhi- Distribution of Free Medicines for Poor, which was later implemented by UPA and renamed by Modi.
· It is only state where dowry is non-existent. As a matter of fact, the entire nation should try to emulate the example of Assam, so that dowry can be eliminated totally.
· About Assamese women, Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Assamese women can weave dreams through their handlooms”
· There is 30% Reservation for Women in Govt jobs in Assam
· More than 2.71 Lakh Women work in Self Help Groups (SHG’s)
· In 2013, The State Government established the first Women University in Assam
· Take the case of distribution of mosquito nets and blankets to the poor in Assam. It protects the poor from catching diseases like malaria, common in the belt. It also helps Assam government as they don’t have to then spend a lot of money and other resources if a large number of people don’t catch that disease annually
· For the last 10 years, Assam is the only state that has been giving a computer to a school pass-out who gets above 60% marks. It is much appreciated by the people
· This is to help an unmarried woman avoid getting financially dependent on her family. No state has thought of such a scheme. When a girl child is born in Assam, we help her family open a bank account and give a one-time Rs 5000 grant for her education.
· Recently, we created six more districts to bring administration closer to people.
Factors & Issues
· Has not done anything concrete for Assam- both as the Skill Development Minister and the Sports and Youth Affairs Minister in the Modi Government.
· As Sports Minister- Did Not built a single stadium for Assam in the last 2 years.
· The South Asian Games were organized, although he vied for the credit, but it hardly got any media coverage or accolades. People appreciated the work of Tarun Gogoi as the President of Assam Olympic Association during the Games.
· Sonowal is the same man who brought a corruption charge against Sarma in the Louise Berger case and now he is siding with him, all to win an election.
· Sonowal is the same man who was instrumental in removing the IMTD Act brought by the Indira Gandhi Government.
Sealing of Borders to curb Illegal Immigration
The 4096 kilometer long India-Bangladesh is one of the most difficult to patrol because of the topography, riverine patches, dense forested hills, agricultural lands and human settlements.
The porous nature of the border has led to numerous trans-border problems including infiltration, smuggling, of arms and drugs (phensidyl, narcotics etc), contraband goods, illegal movement of persons, and common crimes such as kidnapping for ransom, cattle lifting, extortion etc. A fence is being built along the border to ensure better border management and to check illegal cross border movement.
Construction of the barbed-wire fence along the Assam stretch of the Indo-Bangladesh border would be completed by the end of 2016
This was in full swing during the Congress led UPA
“Construction of a 76-km barbed wire fence on the border with Bangladesh in Dhubri district of Assam is in full swing. The fence, located 150 yards from the zero line, will replace the one erected in 1988.
The Home Ministry sanctioned the fencing in June 2006 in the third phase of the Indo-Bangladesh Border Roads and Fence project launched in 1986 to prevent illegal immigration.”
BJP has promised sealing of border with Bangladesh in their Manifesto to fool people, work for which was almost completed under UPA
Citizenship to Hindu Migrants from Bangladesh
People have not forgiven the BJP for its decision to give citizenship to the Hindu Bangladeshis living in the State. It is a sentimental issue and BJP has played with it. Assamese people will not forgive them for its decision to make illegal Bangladeshis Indian citizens. Also, it gave Assam’s land to Bangladesh. When the UPA II government wanted to solve the problem, the BJP came to the streets in the state saying that Tarun Gogoi is siding with Bangladeshis, look what it has done now! People will see though their double standards.
“This move is a violation of the Assam accord that mandates that no migrant who moved to Assam after 1971 is to be considered for citizenship,” said a senior AGP leader. Stung, the AGP has decided to put up a “friendly fight” against the BJP in six Assembly seats.
The Assam Accord was signed in the presence of the then Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 and ushered a new era of Peace in Assam. Several provisions have of the Accord have been implemented (See Achievements: http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/assam/documents/papers/assam_accord_1985.htm#Assam_Accord ) by successive Governments, and the Congress party is committed to implement the remaining provisions of the Assam Accord in letter and in spirit.
Assam Gas Cracker Project
In February this year, just before elections PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the Rs 10000 Cr refinery, although it was initiated and implemented by the Manmohan Singh Government.
National Register of Citizenship (NRC)
The first phase of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has been completed in Sept 2015 itself , with over 66.90 lakh households submitting forms linking themselves to either the NRC of 1951 or any of the electoral rolls prior to 1971.
The state is now ready to begin the more difficult task of verifying the applications.
Unique to Assam, the NRC was prepared in 1951, immediately after the 1951 Census, to document names of Indian citizens in the state in the backdrop of large-scale migration from East Pakistan following Partition. The exercise is being monitored by the Supreme Court
If Modi government is so concerned about NE development, why has it then lifted the special status from the region granted by the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula? By doing so, you indirectly brought the North East at par with developed states like Gujarat . How can we compete with them?
Backward Region Grant Fund (BGRF)
Modi Government has also taken away the Backward Region Grant Fund from the state, which was launched by former PM Manmohan Singh in 2007 to address persistent regional imbalances in development.
North East Industrial Investor Programme policy
Modi Govt stopped the North East Industrial Investor Programme policy. Many companies, who may not have a market in the northeast, had set up their manufacturing units in Assam simply because that policy which gave them certain incentives. Now that is gone. Who will come to invest in the northeast?
Central funds for Assam floods.
The Centre told the Assam Government to use funds from the state exchequer for rehabilitation work and it will reimburse us but that fund has also not come even after many reminders were sent. The Prime Minister did not even have the time to visit Assam during the time of floods.
Assam’s demand for oil royalty.
Since 2008, Assam has been seeking that oil producing companies pay royalty to the state on the well head price determined by the actual price of the crude oil prevailing in the international market and not on the sale price as defined by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Gujarat went to court demanding the same. The Supreme Court decided in its favour. Now, while the Modi government is giving that price to Gujarat, it has refused to pay Assam. An SC order should have applied to us also. Now, Assam is forced to go to the court because of it. If this is not partiality, then what is?
Modi has said one of his ministers will visit NE once a week
What is the use of it? When Sonowal was the Union skill development minister, Assam Govt sent a district-wise proposal to empower our people but nothing happened.
Hyper Nationalism of BJP
The hyper religious nationalism that the BJP is propagating across the country will not work in Assam. Take the question of beef eating. Many in the northeast eat beef. For instance, all Nagas do. So are you saying all Nagas are anti-nationals?
AIUDF and Muslims
The Assamese Muslims are with Congress. They will never vote for AIUDF simply because that party has always worked only for the Bengali-speaking Muslims. The Assamese Muslims are asserting their ethnicity now. In fact, many Assamese Muslim students’ organisations have declared recently that they would not support AIUDF.
Rs 1000 Cr Package for Tea Garden Community.
Modi promised Rs 1000 Cr for Bodos, but gave only Rs 50 Cr in this Budget, How can we expect Rs 1000 Cr for Tea Garden Community?
Congress Manifesto for Assam,2016 : Highlights
· One member of each family in Assam will be provided jobs if Congress returns to power in the state. If I come to power again, It will ensure job to one member of each family. Our target is to give 10 lakh jobs in both government and private sectors in the next five years.
· To classify families as ‘poor’ whose annual income is less than Rs 2.5 lakh and give benefits accordingly.
· If voted to power, Congress will fill all vacant teaching posts in schools and create two lakh more such posts in the next five years. It will also regularise services of all the employees within next five years.
· Special packages to small tea farmers, a special package of Rs 2,000 crore for the development councils, while Rs 1,000 crore each will be given to the hill and Barak valley districts.
· Also, Rs 500-crore packages will be offered to each Majuli island.
· For those residing in ‘char’ islands, the Congress Govt in Assam will dole out Rs 1,500 crore special package in five years, and we promise to uplift the SCs and STs.
· Promise to distribute sugar through government-owned subsidised supply stores.
· Regarding erosion by the Brahmaputra river, steps will be initiated to recover the lost land through scientific research so that those areas can be utilised for industry and other purposes.
· Agriculture universities will be set up in Dhemaji and Bongaigaon. For Barak valley, a mini secretariat will be set up there and connectivity to the region will be improved.
· The government will demand the Centre to construct a new airport and set up a Gauhati High Court bench in the Barak valley.