We are building up for the upcoming 5 state elections. Of the 5, the second state I am focussing on after Tamil Nadu is Assam. Assam is the largest state in the northeastern part of India with 126 assembly seats. Today I will not be discussing the psephology of the state of Assam but the history of Assam. The history of Assam is centuries-old just like any other Indian state.
Well, Assam is known for Tea and Silk. But do you known Assam is also known as the Pragjyotisha Kingdom of Ancient India?
In ancient times, well before modern India was born, Assam was known as the Pragjyotisha Kingdom. It is referred to both in Ramayana and Mahabharata. Of the many kingdoms ruled by the Aryan civilization, the one from the northeast was the Assam of today. Leaving the rich history behind… Assam was one of the first places to be part of the British East India Company. The most beautiful fact of Assam is the state borders are placed exactly through the flowing Brahmaputra river. This is all about the geography of Assam. Let us now come to its demographics…
The much-discussed point about Assam is its population composition. Especially the changes in the population numbers of Muslims. Assam’s population was more or less in line with that of India. At the time of Independence, the Muslim population in the state was 25%. But due to the partition based on religion, many Muslims migrated to Pakistan, which led to a slight fall to 24.68% in 1951. There were no more changes till 1971.
The seed for today’s debate on the Muslim’s population was accidentally sown in 1971 after the liberation of Bangladesh. This time also there was a fall in the population as it went southwards to 24.36% from 25.30%. But things took a gradual change as the Muslim population increased on the back of pro-Muslim policies and support by political parties. This brought a sea of change in the composition of Assam. From 25% in 1971, the state of Assam saw 34.22% Muslim population in 2011.
The Govt of the day in the 1980s took a Muslim stand, this led to violence in Assam between native Assamese and the migrated Muslims. Assamese wanted to maintain their culture but then the migrated Muslims wanted to impose their culture in the State. At least that was the perception that led to violence. So, the religious and communal tensions have been State’s moot issue to work on.
History of Politics in the State:
Four parties are fighting for power in Assam. BJP, Congress, AUDF and Assam Gana Parishad. Congress was the party in power from 2001 to 2016. Before that Assam Gana Parishad was enjoying the power and sometimes remained in opposition. It was in 2016, things changed and it was the man from Congress ‘Himanta Biswa Sharma’ who brought the saffron wave into Assam. was a leader in Assam. It was none other than Rahul Gandhi who invited danger. One day, Himanta Biswa Sharma wanted to meet Rahul Gandhi during his stay in Assam. Rahul obliged and gave an appointment but was playing with his pet dog during the meeting. This disturbed and infuriated Himanta. Without waiting anymore Himanta left the party and joined BJP.
In 2014 he helped BJP win Lok Sabha seats in Assam. He was then made the head of the northeastern wing of BJP. Then came the 2016 elections which BJP won. It marked BJP first victory in Assam. But Himanta didn’t become CM. He had eyes on winning the full of North East for BJP. BJP had given him all the powers to take control of the Northeast. As they aimed, in 2019 entire northeast turned saffron. BJP swept North East winning 18 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats.
Plan to bring an end to migration – CAA & NRC
The foundation was laid properly for BJP to bring an end to illegal migration. That’s when Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and Himanta Biswa Sharma plan together to bring NRC and CAA. These were the two very important laws for Assam. It was indeed the need of the hour as Supreme Court also wanted NRC to be conducted. But the Congress and its allies were never willing to conduct the CAA. By going against the BJP’s stand on CAA & NRC, Congress and allies plan to retain the majority of Muslim votes.
With a 45% vote share required to win an election, Congress feels they can take 30%+ Muslim votes and get the rest of the votes from Liberal Hindus. BJP on the other hand, want to implement NRC and CAA. By this, they are clear they don’t want a Muslim vote. All that BJP wants is to retain the maximum of Hindu votes. Numerically 50% votes out of 68% Hindu vote.
Little psephology of Assam:
AIUDF is the party that is Muslim dominant and they are Congress’s best ally. With this Congress feels, 30-40 seats are automatically in the Congress Bag. BJP also knows this, which is why their formula is to win 64 in the available 90 seats. It is like winning 75% seats in 86 seats. Surely a difficult task but not impossible.
In previous elections, Himanta’s hard work and anti-incumbency of Congress resulted in BJP’s victory. This time things are not the same. Until or unless there is huge polarisation BJP cannot win. We will wait to see if there was enough polarisation apart from the developmental work of BJP!!