The party holds “national unity conclave” in Muslim-dominated Barpeta district
A month after sounding its poll bugle from areas inhabited by the ‘khilonjia’ (indigenous) communities in eastern Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Tuesday took its “national unity conclave” to the minority-dominated Barpeta district in the western part of the State.
The AGP, one of the two regional allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam, tore into the Congress and the minority-based All-India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) for driving a wedge between different communities in the State.
“Barpeta is Assam’s Satra Nagari [town of Vaishnav monastery] and it has a history. People from various faiths have always shared a bond of love and friendship here, but the divisive Congress and AIUDF are trying to destroy it for political mileage,” AGP president and Agriculture Minister Atul Bora said at the conclave in Barpeta, a town about 95 km west of Guwahati.
He appealed to the voters to thwart the Congress-AIUDF design in the Assembly elections scheduled in the State by May.
Barpeta district has a few major Vaishnav monasteries. The district is also one of Assam’s nine where Muslims are in a majority.
Of the eight Assembly seats in the district, the Congress holds three, the AIUDF and AGP two each and BJP one.
Mr. Bora blamed the Congress for years of “underdevelopment” in the State. “The Congress, which ruled Assam for the most part, could have built a progressive Assam had it worked sincerely and not divided people on the lines of religion and language. It is because of the Congress that we are lagging behind many States in all sectors,” he said.
He predicted a rout for the Congress-AIUDF combine in the polls. “This was evident from the Bodoland Territorial Council elections [December 2020]. The two parties fought together, but won just one of the 40 seats,” Mr Bora said.
“They will lose the polls fighting over seat-sharing arrangement between them,” he said, alluding to an attempt by the Congress and AIUDF to form a grand alliance of Opposition parties.
Wary of the newly-formed Assam Jatiya Parishad’s bid to edge the AGP out of the space for regional parties in Assam, Mr. Bora said his party had learnt from its mistakes and was trying to strengthen itself.
“We were in power for two terms, but lost the trust of the people from 2001 to 2016. We analysed our mistakes and with new thoughts and a new vision, we are trying to take the party forward,” he said.
The AGP was born out of the anti-immigrants Assam Agitation of 1979-85 that ended with the signing of the historic Assam Accord in 1985. The exercise to update the National Register of Citizens was an outcome of that agitation and its pilot project, done in Barpeta in 2010, had claimed the lives of four people in police firing.