‘Not in Mahajot because Cong. no different from BJP’

Our party has rekindled hope for the people who had banked on the Congress and the BJP for development, says AJP chief

Spearheading the movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, while he was the general secretary of the influential All Assam Students’ Union, catapulted 41-year-old Lurinjyoti Gogoi from a village in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district as a jatiyatabadi or nationalist leader in 2019. He quit the union and became the first president of the newy floated Assam Jatiya Parishad in December 2020. The AJP’s candidate for the Duliajan and Naharkatiya Assembly seats, he told The Hindu why India needs regionalism amid the onslaught of national parties. Excerpts from the interview:

How much of an issue is CAA, which the BJP says is irrelevant today?

CAA is the biggest issue, a political injustice against the people of Assam where people have always been sentimental about being overrun by foreigners. The BJP came to power claiming to end the migrant vote bank politics of the Congress but ended up catering to another set of Bangladeshis – the Hindus with other non-Muslims added to their agenda as an afterthought. CAA will put an additional load that will threaten our identity, culture, language, economy, our very existence. People of Assam cannot let that happen, so they are against the BJP and other political entities that support CAA directly or indirectly.

You spurned the offer to join the Congress-led Mahajot or grand alliance to increase the chances of defeating the BJP. Was it the right decision?

It was definitely the right decision. There is hardly any ideological difference between Congress and the BJP. Congress pampered and protected illegal foreigners for decades, the BJP has followed them by catering to another set of foreigners that suits their religious agenda. And AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front headed by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal), the main ally of the Congress, is as communal as the BJP, complimenting each other. We have fundamental ideological differences with the main Mahajot parties, hence the decision to maintain distance from them. Our brand of regionalism is not compatible with neither.

How is the AJP different from the AGP, both birthed by the same organisations?

Our parent organisations may be the same, but we have learnt what not to do and what not to be from the AGP, which betrayed their ideology and the people of Assam. Our vision while forming AJP was very clear; to give people a regional option that will stand up to the imposition of policies and injustice by Delhi, economic exploitation, destruction of the federal system, deprivation and pushing people into a communal quagmire, not just be a puppet. We want to give people quality, inclusive politics to protect the democratic values and ensure no one suffers from an identity crisis because of the threat to land, culture and language.

The linguistic threat in Assam invariably means Bengali, associated with the Hindus believed to be pro-BJP, and there is a perception that the anti-CAA sentiment is anti-Bengali. Is it?

That is a theory propounded by those who want Hindu Bengalis and others from Bangladesh to settle in Assam. Most Bengali Hindus know the BJP has fooled them with CAA, which has done them more harm than good. Did BJP bail out any Bengali Hindu D (doubtful) voter or prevent anyone from languishing in detention centres during their five-year reign? CAA is not about Hindus, Muslims, Bengalis or non-Bengalis. We are absolutely clear that all post-1971 people must go or be settled elsewhere in India. The pre-1971 Bengali Hindus are very much our own. We have given tickets to them in eastern Assam (considered an Assamese domain). The anti-Bengali label is just to discredit the anti-CAA movement.

What are your chances?

Our party has rekindled hope for the people who had banked on the Congress and BJP for all-round development. Under BJP, they have seen productivity dip, prices rise, democratic values erode, crime graph go up, freedom of speech taken away. Some 20-30% of people who voted for the BJP last time have come to us, so have the Congress supporters. We are being welcomed in minority areas too. We hope to be in a position of strength.

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