Mi­grant to Main­stream

India Today - - COVER STORY -

De­bakanta Barua’s ‘ Alis’ can­not be taken for granted any­more. Com­pris­ing 5.5 mil­lion of As­sam’s 18.5 mil­lion vot­ers in 2011, mi­grant Mus­lims largely aligned with AIUDF, amid du­bi­ous and con­flict­ing sig­nals from Chief Min­is­ter Go­goi ahead of the 2011 Assem­bly elec­tions. The fledg­ling party, with a small but im­pres­sive de­but of 10 MLAs in 2006, was cat­a­pulted to the po­lit­i­cal centrestage in 2011 with an even more con­vinc­ing tally of 18, mak­ing it the sec­ond largest party in the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly.

As a con­se­quence, the Congress’s share of mi­grant Mus­lim votes plum­meted from 36 per cent in 2006 to just 28 per cent in 2011. The party, how­ever, polled 67 per cent of the ‘ coolie’ or tea gar­den work­ers’ votes across 13 key con­stituen­cies. Go­goi’s ‘ son- of- the­soil’ stance also won him new friends among As­samese Mus­lims as 55 per cent of them voted for the Congress in 2011 as against 39 per cent in 2006.

While Go­goi ap­pears un­per­turbed and con­tent in his third suc­ces­sive term, AIUDF’s as­cen­dancy wor­ries Con­gress­men in Guwahati and Delhi. They fear the party could emerge as a ma­jor chal­lenge to the Congress’s dom­i­na­tion in As­sam. Na­gaon- born Aj­mal won both South Sal­mara and Ja­mu­na­mukh Assem­bly seats in the 2011 polls. The AIUDF chief had ear­lier demon­strated his grow­ing influence with a record win from Dhubri in the 2009 Lok Sabha elec­tions.

Un­like Go­goi, many Con­gress­men are in touch with Aj­mal, aware that any fur­ther po­lar­i­sa­tion of Mus­lim vote could change the equa­tion in As­sam. “If Go­goi con­tin­ues, we will win only in Jorhat and Di­bru­garh in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,” says a Congress min­is­ter.

Oth­ers, too, are trou­bled at the prospect. AASU chief ad­viser Sa­mu­j­jal Bhat­tacharya ex­plains his worst night­mare: “If the in­flux is al­lowed to con-

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