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Lok Sabha Elections: BJP’s tribal card in Assam’s hill districts

Saturday, 12 April 2014 - 1:34pm IST | Agency: dna

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Out of 14 seats in Assam, one seat is witnessing a key fight and a possible wave of change. The tribal reserved autonomous district seat in Asasm comprising of two districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao are voting today. 

From 1977 this seat has been a strong Congress bastion. The sitting MP and Congress veteran Biren Singh Engti who is contesting once against, Engti has won the seat – four times -1977, 1984, 2004 and 2009 . But between 1991 to 1999 when the two districts have seen heights of ethnic insurgency by underground Dimasa and Karbi rebel groups asking for separate Dimaraji state and a separate Karbi state, candidates from the Automonous State Demand Committee (ASDC) Jayanta Rongpi made it to the parliament on four consecutive term. That was the time the hill districts of Assam, marooned and ravaged by insurgency were witnessing flared up demands of an Autonomous hill state with in Assam, a state within the state. 

Later the demand subsided until last year when UPA at Centre okayed Telagana, the hills of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong are witnessing a renewed demand of autonomous hill state within Assam. With it came violence and ethnic unrest. 

Taking advantage of this sharp division on ethnic lines, and anti–incumbency against Engti, BJP has dropped its hat in the ring and has fielded Joyram Engleng, the former Chief Executive Member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) as its candidate, taking the fight straight to Congress.

Congress is opposed to the idea of further devision of Assam or even an Autonomous state for the hill district, BJP is trying to give air to this resentment.

Although Congress has been in power in Assam since 2001, the locals in the two hill district complain of under development, for them Congress has betrayed them, they donot have good roads, employments and higher education avenues. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi did campaign at Diphu, the headquarters of Karbi Anglong, but with Engleng taking the fight to Engti, the battle for Karbi Anglong would be crucial.

For Congress, they need to hold on to the seat to show that the tribals of Assam are still with the party, but BJP winning a tribal reserved would give lot of credibility to the party in Northeast since the party is still seen as a party of the Hindi heartland in this part of the nation. Engleng was himself in the Congress, but the Telegana flare up changed it all. He organised the leaders of the two district councils and urged the Congress high command demanding consideration of the statehood issue, but the party leadership did not take up th matter seriously.

BJP has been clever enough to seize this opportunity, but will they be able to break the Congress bastion through Engleng, only voters would decide.

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