Assam

Assam Assembly elections | Covering up for governance failure is easy in Assam: Maulana Badruddin Ajmal

AIUDF MP BADRUDDIN Ajmal at Parliament during winter session, in New Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Considered among the world’s 500 most influential Muslims, perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has been the whipping boy of Assam’s electoral politics ever since he founded the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in 2005 after the Supreme Court scrapped the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983 that allegedly favoured the so-called Bangladeshis. An enemy-turned-friend of the Congress, he has remained the bogeyman for rivals — the BJP as well as the newly-floated regional parties — despite the focus shifting from Muslim migrants to Hindu migrants this election because of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Excerpts from an interview:

To quote a former Chief Minister, who is Badruddin Ajmal?

Badruddin is good for people who are good at heart, are positive, have a vision and want to see Assam progress. Badruddin is a villain for those who fear losing power, have no real issues to take to the people, who could not fulfil even 1% of promises made five years ago.

Rivals use you as a template of fear — of Muslim migrants planning to take over Assam. Why is it that you invariably become the talking point of all elections?

Covering up for governance failure is easy in Assam, just sell the fear of Ajmal as a representative or an advocate of migrant Muslims. They go by my attire, skull cap, beard to fan this fear when truth is, I have gone on record in Parliament demanding that all foreigners who try to cross the border should be shot at sight. It is unfortunate that I become convenient for parties like the BJP to divert attention from more important issues such as flood, erosion, farm loss, joblessness and security of life. Sometimes I become Bangladeshi, sometimes Jinnah, sometimes Aziz Khan, sometimes Pakistani, and now Mughal.

You have tied up with Congress, once your bitter rival. Will it result in division of Muslim votes?

(Former Chief Minister) Tarun Gogoi was a friend till the time I was the president of the Jamiat Ulama in Assam. He became a rival after the AIUDF took away a chunk of minority votes over whom the Congress had total control. But he took the first step in rekindling our friendship before his death last year because he realised, I was not an enemy of Assam, that I want to build hospitals, universities, schools and promote women’s education. He laid the foundation of the eight-party Mahajot which hopes to throw out the BJP and its anti-Assam policies such as the implementation of the CAA.

But the perception is that AIUDF might lose some seats in Muslim areas and association with you might cost the Congress dear in Assamese areas…

The observation is right, but the alliance was needed. An analysis of the 2016 election showed that the division of votes between the AIUDF and the Congress made the BJP and the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) scrape through in several constituencies. That’s why we checked our community-based emotions and thought strategically to oust the BJP. We have sacrificed a lot of seats for making the Mahajot stronger.

Why is it that the new parties, Assam Jatiya Parishad and Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal, see you as a communal force?

We challenge them to show one instance in 15-16 years of our existence where we have done anything divisive. It is up to them to decide whether the BJP, trying to change Assam’s language and culture by bringing in Hindu Bengalis, is the greatest enemy or I am. They say they want to defeat the BJP but are wooing Muslims and have fielded candidates in minority areas. One can draw an inference.

What are your major issues this time?

The CAA definitely is, although the BJP claims to the contrary. The National Register of Citizens, which exposed the BJP’s lies about millions of Bangladeshis in Assam, is as important. We are also serious about D (doubtful) voters and detention centres that have destroyed thousands of lives, flood and erosion, joblessness and price rise.


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 5:42:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/assam-assembly/covering-up-for-governance-failure-is-easy-in-assam/article34047834.ece

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