Poll plank disclosed at national executive committee in Guwahati

With one stroke of the pen the Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to capture an entirely new vote-bank in Assam: promise of Scheduled Caste status to six communities, which currently do not enjoy this.

A brief mention of this was made by BJP president Nitin Gadkari here on Saturday when he declared the party national executive committee open and delivered a 14-page presidential address.

Describing this as an important issue concerning the Morans, Motoks, Koch-Rajbongshis, Tai-Ahoms, Tea tribes and the Sutiyas, Mr. Gadkari said his party “pledges,” if it were to come to power in the next general election, to “vigorously follow-up the demand” to give scheduled tribe status to these communities.

This and its old stance on illegal migration from Bangladesh threatening change in the demography of Assam constitute the twin planks for Assam and the northeast as outlined in its resolution related to the region adopted here.

Apparently, a larger BJP plan is to ensure a substantial increase in the tribal population to enable Assam itself to be declared a tribal State as several other States in the northeast are.

The double-edged plan is to entice six communities with the promise of tribal status and to simultaneously ensure that in the coming decades Muslims do not become the single largest group, a senior party leader from the State told The Hindu.

The Assam plan is akin to what the BJP did in the late nineties in Rajasthan when it promised, and then delivered backward caste status to the Jats.

The effects of that bit of shrewd politics is still being witnessed in the repeated Gujjar demand for Scheduled Tribe status as they felt the backward caste pie had shrunk after the Jats joined as partakers.

Later, a State party leader explained that the Rajasthan problem could be avoided in Assam as the ST quota could be expanded to match the ST population percentage.

In this instance, the pie itself will become bigger, unlike in the case of the backward caste quota in Rajasthan, where the upper limit of 27 per cent could not be crossed.

On Saturday, Mr. Gadkari mentioned the six communities for which the party sought ST status – including the Tea Tribes, tea plantation workers from other States who enjoy ST status in their home States but not in Assam – and said the party appealed to the State and Central governments to take “urgent steps” towards implementing this “without affecting the existing ST communities.”

On illegal migration from Bangladesh, the BJP made it clear that it wanted to give full citizenship and voting rights to Hindu refugees from Bangladesh as it viewed them as “displaced refugees,” while Muslims from the same country were “infiltrators.”

The party released a booklet on scandals in the northeast and connected the corruption in this region to the larger issue of corruption in 2G spectrum allocation and inflated costs incurred in Commonwealth Games-related projects.

Why delay Telangana?

The BJP has charged the UPA government with delaying the creation of a Telangana State, belying the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region.

In a statement adopted at the conclave, it said the creation of two smaller States out of Andhra Pradesh would accelerate economic development in both regions.

Telangana should be and is the only option, not merely one of the six options listed by the Srikrishna Committee, it said.

The party demanded an assurance from the government that it would indeed begin the process of creation of Telangana by introducing a bill in Parliament at the earliest.

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