By Tanuj Dhar
Guwahati, Jan 29 (IANS): Political pundits may be opining that the Congress in Assam looks like a puny force in front of the BJP's massive election machinery and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's tall image. However, Bhupen Borah, the Assam unit Congress chief, looks rejuvenated after the recent state version of the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', and exudes confidence.
Here are some excerpts from an exclusive interview with the Congress leader.
IANS: You have been constantly attacking AIUDF's Badruddin Ajmal. Can the Congress party win elections in Assam without a tie-up with the AIUDF?
Borah: We forged an alliance with Ajmal's party in the last assembly poll. But what we could see was that the AIDUF leaders were constantly delivering a series of provocative statements that, in turn, helped the BJP consolidate Hindu votes.
The saffron camp was trying their best to do polarisation, however, they had looked to be failure in achieving their target. It was AIUDF leaders' statements that tremendously aided the BJP wheel the result in their favour.
IANS: Are you accusing Ajmal of having a pact with Himanta Biswa Sarma?
Borah: This is very evident. Badruddin Ajmal and his brother have showered huge praises on Sarma a number of times. His party's MLA says Himanta Biswa Sarma is the most successful Chief Minister. How could you say that? That man could not even fulfil a mere 25 per cent of his party's vision document.
The Chief Minister promised to give 1 lakh government jobs within a short time as he assumes the office. One and a half years have gone, the unemployed youths of Assam are crying for jobs, and there are still many unfulfilled promises. Hence, if you call Sarma a successful CM, then you must have a hidden agenda.
IANS: How have you planned to challenge the BJP's election machinery?
Borah: We carried out an Assam version of the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' from Dhubri to Sadiya. The BJP first claimed that people would not turn out for this campaign. But everybody has seen how much response we received during this yatra. Now, people from Barak Valley came to me and urged for a similar campaign in that area. We are launching it there also.
Actually, the people of Assam were never communal, and I am sure the BJP's attempt to instil communalism will fail miserably in the next election. Moreover, the BJP has deprived almost every section of society, be it a government employee, a teacher, or a homemaker. They are not giving Old Pension Scheme. The government is trying to lay off 8,000 teacher jobs in the state. The BJP will have to pay the political price of all this.
IANS: Are you looking for an alliance with other parties leaving AIUDF?
Borah: In Assam, the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) has lost its significance. When our Bharat Jodo Yatra was passing through the constituencies of AGP's top leaders like Atul Bora and Keshab Mahanta, people living adjacent to their houses also joined with us in large numbers. This shows how much they have lost people's trust by going with the BJP.
IANS: What about the Trinamool Congress? Ripun Bora already declared that they are ready to forge an alliance with you.
Borah: We cannot take this decision at the state level. Our party's national leaders will take a call on whether to go with the Trinamool Congress or not. The same situation applies for the Aam Aadmi Party too. But we are keeping close relations with the Left parties, the NCP, Akhil Gogoi, and Lurinjyoti Gogoi. They joined our yatra at different places.
IANS: Do you expect this crowd will turn into votes in next year's Lok Sabha election?
Borah: I don't think this is an appropriate time to answer this as we have more than one year left for the election. But people were earlier afraid of talking about the misrule of Himanta Biswa Sarma in the state. This has changed with our recent 'Bharat Jodo Yatra'. People are now believing that the Congress is ready to take on BJP.
IANS: Recently, Himanta Biswa Sarma has claimed that he controls at least 50 per cent of the Congress party in the state.
Borah: I don't think this is a right statement. However, he has ties with a few Congress leaders in Assam. We know who these people are, and the party's high command has also been informed. Those leaders are keeping a relation with the Chief Minister for the sake of their personal benefit. I hope they will change very soon otherwise we have to take a strong decision.
IANS: Is this not an embarrassing and helpless situation for you?
Borah: In 2006, Himanta Biswa Sarma poached five out of 11 MLAs of the BJP in Assam and claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party had been finished in the state. A few years later, that man had to join the BJP. He might have made pacts with three or four leaders, but he cannot control the party. We run the Congress in the state, no doubt about that.
IANS: The BJP is already saying that they will win 12 out of the 14 seats in Assam in the next Lok Sabha polls...
Borah: It is too early to comment as the election result is always decided in the last three months. But I must say that as of now, we are ahead of the BJP in at least eight Lok Sabha seats in the state.