Q: The BJP in Assam has been able to maintain a very good record particularly since 2016 by winning two Assembly elections consecutively, one Lok Sabha election, panchayat election and several autonomous body elections under the leadership of former president Ranjeet Kumar Dass. You have taken charge as the new state president of BJP at a time when the party is at its strongest. So, as a new president, what would be your main focus of area?
Bhabesh Kalita: I would like to thank the party’s national leadership for giving me such a big responsibility by appointing me as the president of the state BJP. To strengthen the party more at the grassroots level is the prime focus. We have to build a strong foundation in every village of the state. We want to create an atmosphere of unity and brotherhood among the communities and we have been successful to some extent in the last five years. The party workers have a lot of responsibility to assist the government in taking the government schemes to the last person.
Q. In the recently concluded elections for the 126-member House, the BJP gave a dismal performance in the minority-dominated seats in lower Assam. But it gave a spectacular performance in upper Assam and did well in Barak valley. Where and what is challenge for BJP, which it has not been able to overcome yet?
Bhabesh Kalita: The demography of Assam varies from from place to place. The demography in upper Assam is not dominated by the immigrant minority like in lower Assam. The demography in places like Goalpara, Barpeta, Dhubri and South Salmara Mankachar in lower Assam does not favour the BJP. There are a lot of party workers in those areas to show, but the votes go against the BJP every time. Minority community is not a factor in upper Assam, for which the party gave a spectacular performance in the recently concluded Assembly elections.
Q: The immediate task ahead is the by-polls in three legislative constituencies – Mariani, Gossaigaon and Tamulpur. After that, elections to municipal bodies and Lok Sabha. Will the BJP fight the by-elections and the Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the United Peoples’ Party Liberal (UPPL), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Gana Suraksha Parishad (GSP)?
Bhabesh Kalita: I would like to make it clear first that BJP-led alliance will win the by-polls in all the three constituencies – Mariani, Tamulpur and Gossaigaon. As far as the alliance is concerned, Tamulpur and Gossaigaon are UPPL’s seats according to the pre-poll alliance formed ahead of the Assembly elections. UPPL lost the Gossaigaon seat at the hands of Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) and won the Tamulpur seat. Unfortunately, Gossaigaon MLA Majendra Narzary and Tamulpur MLA Lehoram Boro recently died of Covid-19 and since then, the seats are lying vacant. As far as Mariani is concerned, the BJP will fight and win it. The alliance will continue in Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2024.
Q: Altogether 10 anti-BJP political parties had formed a grand alliance spearheaded by the Congress and fought the Assembly election to oust the BJP. However, it failed. The BJP-led alliance and the Congress-led grand alliance accused each other of playing communal politics to win the elections. The allegation is still there. Why so?
Bhabesh Kalita: For a healthier democracy, we need a strong Opposition. I feel pity for the present condition of the Opposition in Assam. It is not the BJP. It is the Congress, which is doing communal politics. It forged an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Left parties.
We have never indulged in communal politics. We have never tried to polarize. We went to the voters ahead of the elections and sought their support. The Opposition parties in Assam hinder progress and development of the state, which the BJP is committed to do. The people of the state already understood that the state is not safe at the hands of Congress and its allies. For this, the people of the state gave the mandate to the BJP for the second consecutive term.
Q: Population explosion in minority majority areas has recently started making headlines. It has drawn controversies from across political and apolitical spectrums. Why do the people of those particular areas become targets all the time?
Bhabesh Kalita: Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma recently met a section of indigenous Muslims, who are not from any political party, and discussed various issues they have been facing due to the immigrant minorities in those areas. They also told the chief minister that the indigenous Muslims have now faced a threat due to the immigrant minorities. Indigenous Muslim youths have lost work/jobs because of the immigrant minorities. Now, we do not see a mason, a rickshaw-puller, or a vendor from indigenous Muslim community. The immigrant minority people have snatched the jobs from the indigenous Muslims. The population has exploded in particular areas of the state. The government is concerned about that. It must be controlled.
Unfortunately, the Congress always used the people of these areas as its vote bank. It is least bothered about the interest of the greater Assamese community.
Q. The Citizenship Amendment Act has been a hot topic for a long period. Opposition political parties and most of the organizations and student bodies still claim that the act poses an identity threat to the indigenous people of the state. Even scrapping of the CAA was an election issue for the grand alliance in the recently concluded Assembly elections. But, BJP is armament to implement by sidelining the protests.
Bhabesh Kalita: CAA is a central act. It is not only for Assam. It is applicable across the country. Why not in Assam? Isn’t Assam an integral part of the country? You want central grant or financial assistance, but you cannot accept the central act. Why?
CAA was never an issue for the people of the state. People want speedy development in the state, which was missing in the last 15 years under the rules of Congress. As far as the Sixth Schedule areas are concerned, where the act is not applicable, those areas are constitutionally protected. The Sixth Schedule was not created by BJP. We do not nullify the Constitution.
Q: Raijor Dal MLA from Sivasagar constituency Akhil Gogoi, who walked out of jail recently, said that the anti-CAA protest will be revived. He was arrested for his role in anti-CAA protests in December in 2019 and spent more than 18 months. Now, he is an MLA. What would you like to say?
Bhabesh Kalita: I do not want to make any remark on Akhil Gogoi. He is an MLA just like other 125 in the House. He alone will not make any difference in the Assembly. The BJP-led alliance has 74 MLAs at present after the demise of one MLA due to Covid. We are running the government and practically, the government makes policies. Akhil Gogoi will not make policies.
Q: It is alleged that the BJP is a capitalist party. It is least bothered about the problems of the common people. The NDA government has not taken any step to control the spiraling prices of essentials items such as LPG and fuel.
Bhabesh Kalita: Assam is not a producing state. It is a consuming state. We have to bring everything from outside the state. Covid-19 pandemic has affected the production and supply chain. So, demand is higher than the supply at present for which we have seen hike in prices. The supply will definitely be sufficient soon. I am sure the government is taking initiatives in the matter and the price will be controlled soon.