Politics and perfume. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has sniffed success in both. The Maulana’s family has been running a perfume business across several nations for the past six decades and he entered politics in Assam after the Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act in 2005. The fragrant success story originated in a remote village in the Hojai area in Nagaon district of central Assam in 1951.

The 63-year-old Maulana, alumnus of Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, articulated the fear of persecution and deportation that gripped Muslim settlers in Assam after the scrapping of the Act by floating the Assam United Democratic Front, renamed All India United Democratic Front.

The Act dominated Assam’s electoral politics for more than two decades after its enactment in 1983 in the aftermath of the Nellie carnage in the undivided Nagaon district in central Assam. Under the Act, those identified as foreigners could appeal to a tribunal and the onus of proof was on the complainant. Hence, it was regarded as a soft law and protective of the minorities.

The Maulana’s new party fought on the poll plank that the Congress failed to prevent the scrapping of the Act. He won 10 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly on its electoral debut in 2006. He won two seats — South Salmara and Jamunamukh. However, Tarun Gogoi formed a Congress government for the second successive term with the support of 11 Bodoland People’s Front MLAs.

In 2009, the Maulana set his footprint on national politics by wresting the Dhubri Lok Sabha seat from the Congress and extended support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, causing further erosion of Muslim support to the Congress. The community plays a decisive role in at least 35 Assembly seats in Assam.

In less than nine years, he became a key player in Muslim politics in Assam.