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इंडियन आवाज़     18 May 2024 04:36:01      انڈین آواز

Elections 2024– Voting Choices for the Muslims in Assam 

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Syed Ali Mujtaba

In the series of articles on the voting choices of Muslims in India, this is the seventh write-up that looks at the political scenario of Assam. The objective is to submit to the Muslims the secular options they have in Assam in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

There are 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam. Muslim voters constitute about 35% of the electorate in Assam. They play a deciding role in six Lok Sabha constituencies and have a significant presence there. They are Dhubri, Barpeta, Nagaon, Koliabor, Karimganj, and Silchar Lok Sabha constituencies.

In Dhubri Muslims account for 70% of the voters, in Barpeta Muslims are 60%, in Mangaldoi there are nearly 400,000 Muslim voters. In Guwahati, there are about 400,000 Muslim voters. In Nagaon 40% of voters are Muslims. In Koliabor there are 28% Muslim voters. In Tezpur 250,000 voters are Muslims. In Karimganj 55% of voters are Muslims. In Silchar 35% of voters are Muslims. In Kokrajhar 200,000 voters are Muslims.

There are only four constituencies; Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, and Diphu where Muslims are insignificant in Assam. So going by layman’s logic, there should be a minimum of 6 Muslim MPs from Assam.

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Assam politics revolves around contesting identities between Assamese and Bengalese.  The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) spearheaded the Assam agitation giving a new direction to Assam politics. It launched an anti-Bengali agitation calling for Bengalese out of Assam. The AGP agitation culminated in the Assam Accord and the agreement that 1970 may be the cut-off date. The Bengalese coming to Assam after 1970 have to be identified disenfranchised and deported. Subsequently in their headcount, it was found that that some 20 lakh Bengalese are on the chopping block out of which 12 lakh are Hindus and 8 lakh Muslims.

Then the BJP enters Assam and hijacks the linguist agenda politics and makes it a contest between Hindu and Muslim identity politics. It was to protect 12 lakh Hindu Bengalese the BJP brought in the Citizen Amendment Act camouflaging it with words like persecution of Hindus in South Asia and giving them Indian citizenship.

Such kinds of bluff need to be politically called off in the 2024 LS election in Assam. The Hindutva politics has unleashed a reign of terror on poor Bengali Muslims in Assam. Muslims are being persecuted in Assam even being 35 percent electorates in the state.

The birth of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a regional party in Assam has to be understood in this background. It is led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. The politics of AIUDF is to protect the Muslims of Assam.   The AIUDF has the edge in southern Assam (Barak Valley) and in other areas of lower Assam.

However, the AIUDF’s entry into Assam’s electoral scene has led to heavy erosion of the Congress votes among Muslim voters. The polarization of Muslim votes between AIUDF and Congress has helped the BJP win at least four Muslim constituencies in Assam; Guwahati, Mangaldoi, Silchar, and Nagaon.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha election Muslims in Assam have only two choices, the AIUDF or the Congress. In 2019, the BJP won seven seats the Congress and the AIUDF front won 3 seats each, and one by an Independent. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland People’s Front, allies of the BJP, went blank.  

This should not be repeated in the 2024, Lok Sabha poll. The good news is the BJP has unofficially conceded defeat in 3 constituencies and contesting only 11 seats. To hide its defeat BJP has given three seats to its allies the AGP and BPF which they are sure to lose. In such a case, the Muslims have to make a fight in 11 constituencies in Assam

The irony is this time the Congress and the AIUDF are contesting the election separately. This may surely split the Muslim votes in Assam which may again benefit the BJP.

The Muslim voters in Assam know their situation very well and what it means to them to live under the BJP rule. Muslims must not split their votes and vote to tame anti-Muslim forces in Assam. It is a layman’s prophesying that e-block voting of the Muslims either of the AIUDF or the Congress winning candidate can change the 2019 results. The BJP tally may come down to 4 while ten seats will be split between AIUDF and the Congress.  

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist

Please email us if you have any comment.

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