A bridge has become an unusual issue in a polarised part of Assam

AIUDF chief says he initiated the project whose foundation stone Modi laid in February

April 05, 2021 04:56 pm | Updated 10:42 pm IST - GUWAHATI

 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel keep up vigil along the Indo-Bangladesh international border in Dhubri district of Assam. File

Border Security Force (BSF) personnel keep up vigil along the Indo-Bangladesh international border in Dhubri district of Assam. File

A bridge to be India’s longest has become an unusual issue in a polarised part of Assam often synonymous with “illegal immigrants”.

Electoral politics in Assam since the 1970s has invariably been spun around the narrative of ‘Bangladeshis’ threatening to take over the State. Western Assam’s Dhubri district, from which South Salmara-Mankachar district was carved out in 2016, has been the peg of this storyline.

But the buzz in this part of Assam ahead of the third and final phase of polling on April 6 has been around the Dhubri-Phulbari bridge across the Brahmaputra, to be India’s longest at 19.282 km.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on February 18 laid the foundation stone of this project that was once considered a bridge too far.

If completed within the target 7 years 9 months, it will connect three Assembly constituencies — Dhubri, Gauripur and South Salmara — and the Phulbari Assembly constituency in Meghalaya.

The Congress had won the South Salmara seat and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had bagged Dhubri and Gauripur in 2016.

The two parties are allies this time, making these three seats and a few more beyond the domain of the Congress-led Mahajot or grand alliance of 10 parties.

“No government before ours could achieve so much for connectivity. Bridges such as Bogibeel [India’s longest rail-road bridge across Brahmaputra]) and Dhola-Sadiya have underlined our commitment to development. The Dhubri-Phulbari bridge too will be our crowning glory,” State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.

But AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal, who represents the Dhubri Lok Sabha seat that encompasses the three ‘bridge’ constituencies, said the Dhubri-Phulbari project might not have been a reality had he not pushed it since 2009.

“I am thankful to Narendra Modiji for giving shape to an idea of the people of my constituency that I discussed in Parliament at least once in these 13-14 years. But I am equally thankful to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singhji for believing in this idea,” he told The Hindu .

Mr. Ajmal said he wrote 38 letters to various Ministries, met the Prime Minister every two months and the Ministers concerned to also revive the Rupsi Airport of World War II vintage, and the British-era railway and inland water connectivity in Dhubri district. The airport under the Gauripur Assembly seat was inaugurated in November 2020.

“We expect the Dhubri-Phulbari bridge to improve communication in this part of Assam bordering Bangladesh. The work on it seems to be progressing at a fast pace,” said Gauripur resident Jyotirmoy Chakraborty.

Former MLA Banendra K. Mushahary, who lost the Gauripur seat in 2016 to the AIUDF’s Nijanur Rahman, hopes the bridge project and the Prime Minister’s credo of “development for all” would help him retake the seat for the BJP.

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