NRC backlash: Assam’s Bengali organisations to field candidates in all 14 LS seats

Several socio-cultural organisations of Bengali Hindus in Assam plan to field Bengali candidates in all 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state in the Lok Sabha elections. A team of representatives from Bengali organisations in Assam and West Bengal are scheduled to meet West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on November 1 to have a primary discussion.

“We, along with some other Assam-based organisations, have decided to field Bengali candidates in all 14 LS seats in the state. We will offer Mamata Banerjee our support if her party fields candidates. Otherwise, we will seek her support for independent candidates we will be fielding,” said Mukul Chandra Bairagya, national working president of All India Namasudra Bikash Parishad (AINBP), one of the largest Dalit refugee organisations in Bengal that also have presence in Assam.

In Assam, AINBP is part of Bengali United Forum of Assam (BUFA), an umbrella group of various Bengali organisations. A major component of BUFA is All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Association (AABYSA), one of the oldest organisations of Bengali Hindus in Assam.

BUFA is spearheading agitations in various parts of Assam over the past three months, protesting exclusion of Bengali Hindus from the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Bharatiya Gana Parishad (BGP), which was founded in 2015 and contested a handful of seats in the 2016 Assam assembly election with little success, has already tied up with Trinamool Congress. “The situation of Bengalis has changed overnight since the publication of NRC’s final draft. As many as 21 Bengali Hindus have committed suicide since then. We are coordinating with Trinamool Congress and other Assam-based Bengali organisations to ensure candidates are fielded on the basis of consensus in all 14 Lok Sabha seats,” said Avijit Chakraborty, president of BGP.

“We have initiated the floating a political party for Bengalis in Assam. This is a must for our survival. Meanwhile, it will be good for both Trinamool Congress and Assam’s Bengali organisations if an electoral understanding could be reached. We need to gather all possible resources to let the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) know the might of the Bengalis,” said Sudhendu Mohan Talukdar, a leader of AABYSA.

BUFA chief coordinator Mahananda Sarkar Dutta said, “Bengalis, especially Bengali Hindus, have zero expectation from the BJP and the Congress. We are open to Trinamool Congress though.”

“The Bengali-speaking people can influence the result in 13 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats (except for Jorhat),” said Talukdar, who said most Bengali Hindus of the state voted for the BJP in 2016 Assembly elections.

Leaders of Bengali organisations in Assam said, for every 100 people, 29 are Bengali-speaking, of whom 18 are Hindus, mostly Dalits.

According to Tapodhir Bhattacharjee, former vice-chancellor of Assam University, the possibility of fielding Bengali candidates as independents in the coming Lok Sabha elections is getting brighter.

“Right now, it looks very likely that Bengali organisations in Assam will field Bengali candidates in the Lok Sabha elections,” Bhattacharjee said.

Senior Trinamool Congress leaders in Kolkata remained tightlipped. “Since the chief minister is herself handling the issue, only she will comment,” said a Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP who refused to be identified.

However, Sayed Jeherul Islam, president of Trinamool Congress’ Barpeta district committee in Assam (Bengalis outnumber Assamese in this district) said, “We are in touch with Assam-based Bengali organisations.”

Shiladitya Dev, the BJP MLA from Hojai and the party’s key Bengali face in Assam said, “I am aware of the plan. This will only increase tension between Assamese and Bengalis. One should give priority to common sense over emotion at this moment and they should focus on including their names in the list.”

First Published: Nov 01, 2018 10:17 IST

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