The BJP leader woos tribals and Hindi-speaking migrant labour alike in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district
A Karbi war dance and a post-harvest dance of the Dimasas greeted Lal Krishna Advani as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s prime ministerial candidate rose to address his maiden election rally in Assam on Wednesday.
Mr. Advani sounded the poll bugle from the Karbi hills that produced ‘Sabin Alun,’ the first tribal version of the Ramayana in the world, an oral version that is hugely popular among the Karbis.
The meeting hardly lasted an hour. Mr. Advani used the Karbi words ‘Kardom’ (welcome/farewell) and ‘Juthai’ (welcome in Dimasa) and the crowd — a mix of Hindi-speaking sugarcane growers, Karbis and Dimasas, who had waited patiently despite the scorching sun — cheered and clapped. The crowd raised the slogan Advaniji zindabad. Clad in his trademark dhoti, kurta and black jacket, Mr. Advani was presented — and wore — a choy-aan (traditional Karbi jacket) and Dimasa gamocha on stage.
“It is for the first time that I have seen such a big leader setting foot here and addressing a public meeting. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Pramod Mahajan was scheduled to address an election rally. But it was cancelled at the last minute,” said Jaleswar Sahoo, an elderly sugarcane grower, at the rally near the local bazaar.
Kheroni is located at the tri-junction of the three districts of Karbi Anglong, Nagaon and North Cachar Hills, and is known for its sugarcane. The cane farms are mostly worked by Hindi-speaking settlers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and falls under the Autonomous District Lok Sabha constituency. Mr Advani told the crowd that if voted back to power, the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would do their best to develop remote and backward areas like Kheroni. He also made a mention of insurgency in his half-hour speech, a calculated attempt to reach out to the Hindi-speaking sugarcane workers, who are often targeted by militants.