New Delhi: The ongoing protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has started to find its reflection in the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections in Assam with senior journalist Ajit Bhuyan, who has been at the forefront of the protest, filing his nomination papers as an independent candidate on March 13.
In the thick of the protests, held in the state in response to the decision of the Narendra Modi government last December to implement the controversial Act which would violate the Assam Accord of 1985, Bhuyan had to step down from the post of editor-in-chief of the Assamese news channel Prag News. It is widely believed that he was asked by his employers to do so due to mounting pressure from the BJP as the channel, under his leadership, had given extensive coverage to the protests.
Bhuyan was also one of the petitioners who successfully contested, in the Guwahati high court, the state government’s decision to ban internet services in the state, due to the anti-CAA protests.
Interestingly, Bhuyan, who filed his papers for the March 26 elections as an independent, has been supported by both the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) as their joint candidate.
In the elections, to be held for the 55 seats of the upper house of parliament, are three seats from Assam. While the ruling BJP is confident of pocketing two of the vacant seats in the state, it doesn’t have the numbers to win the third seat. BJP, like in the last elections, has backed Biswajit Daimary, the candidate from its ally Bodo People’s Front (BPF).
For the second seat, the BJP has chosen Bhubaneswar Kalita, who joined the party last August. Kalita was previously the chief whip of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha but didn’t back the party in the house when it came to opposing the scrapping of the Article 370 of the constitution which gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status. Four days later, he joined the BJP.
On March 13, apart from Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was accompanying his old Congress colleague Kalita to the assembly premises in Dispur to file his nomination papers, state chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and state party chief Ranjit Das were also by his side.
Bhuyan went to file his nomination papers while former state chief minister Tarun Gogoi, state Congress chief and Rajya Sabha member Ripun Bora and AIUDF chief Badaruddin Ajmal accompanied him. A photograph of Bhuyan holding hands with Gogoi and Ajmal was widely circulated in local media, prompting BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma to reportedly say that Bhuyan was committing “a sin” by taking help from a”communal” party like the AIUDF and “degrading” the Assamese community.
Led the team of Congress, AIUDF with our joint candidate Ajit Kumar Bhuyan for the #RajyaSabha Election & filed nomination papers today along with @tarun_gogoi, @BadruddinAjmal, CPIM, CPI, number of Intellectuals, Eminent Journalists, Civil Society Organisers,Artists,Writers etc. pic.twitter.com/sujWvhlupa
— Ripun Bora (@ripunbora) March 13, 2020
Even though Sarma and his colleagues in the BJP have periodically been attacking the AIUDF, the party has jointly managed to form the panchayat in some villages. In the last assembly elections, Ajmal had claimed, during campaigning, that he would ultimately be “the king maker” in Assam. That statement is widely believed to have helped the BJP to consolidate its electoral base among the Assamese voters.
Hitting back at Sarma for his comment, Bhuyan said that the state government should take action against AIUDF if it thinks it is communal instead of just giving statements to media. He told reporters in Guwahati, “Reports are doing the rounds that opposition parties in Assam want a candidate who is anti-CAA and wants to uphold democracy and the constitution. I appealed to these parties to consider me. I appealed to the AGP too. Finally, opposition unity has been achieved and this will ensure my victory.”