The Hindu CSDS-Lokniti Post-Poll Survey 2021

Assam Assembly elections | CAA, NRC evoke mixed sentiments

Women stage a protest against CAA and NRC in Dibrugarh district. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

In both Assam and West Bengal, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was a contentious issue. However, unlike in West Bengal, CAA faced bipartisan resistance in Assam, with calls for the cut-off date to be clocked back to 1971, as agreed in the Assam Accord of 1986. For the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the debate was centred on concerns around the process, rather than the concept itself. Just 3% of respondents in the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey mentioned CAA/NRC as the most important issue in the election. Almost one-third (30%) of respondents mentioned ‘development’ as the key issue.

While the CAA-NRC might not have come up as the most popular issue, a majority of voters (53%) opposed the CAA. There was a 10-percentage advantage to Mahajot among the ones against the law, while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by 30% votes among those backing the CAA. Clearly, the NDA was successful in ensuring that CAA does not become a poll issue. As a result, even among opponents of the law, NDA polled 38% votes.

image/svg+xml Note: Figures are percentages and may not add up to 100 due to rounding Vote choice of supporters and opponents of CAA, NRC and NRC process Voted for Mahajot Voted for NDA Voted for AJP-RD Voted for others CAA Support (20%) 30 60 2 8 Oppose (53%) 48 38 8 6 Non- Committal (27%) 44 46 2 9 NRC concept Support (75% 41 48 5 6 Oppose (10%) 51 29 10 10 Non- Committal (16%) 49 40 3 8 NRC process Satisfed (58%) 40 52 3 6 Dissatisfed (25%) 52 30 11 8 Non- committal (17%) 45 42 3 10

Even though opposition to CAA was high across both Hindus and Muslims, the latter were more likely to be against it, with 61% reporting opposition as against 47% of Hindu voters. Across ethnicities, Assamese Muslims recorded the highest opposition, with three-fourths (73%) against it, followed by Bengali Muslims (59%), Assamese Hindus (51%) and Bengali Hindus (40%).

It’s possible that the BJP sensed the dissatisfaction among voters regarding the CAA and steered away from making it the poll plank. In contrast, for the NRC, as high as three in four respondents reported support, as against one in 10 who opposed it.

image/svg+xml Note: Figures are percentages; the rest of the respondents were non- committal on each question Stand on CAA, NRC, and NRC process by religion and ethnicity CAA NRC concept NRC process Support Oppose Support Oppose Satisfed Dissatisfed Overall 20 53 75 10 58 25 Religion Hindus 23 47 73 9 59 22 Muslims 15 61 74 13 56 31 Christians 17 65 89 3 72 19 Ethnicity Assamese Hindus 20 51 72 10 53 27 Assamese Muslims 11 73 86 9 73 21 Bengali Hindu 34 40 79 9 75 13 Bengali Muslims 16 59 74 12 53 34 Others 21 51 74 9 60 21

Overall, a large proportion of respondents, irrespective of religion, said they were satisfied with the way NRC was implemented in the State. Again proving to be a divider, among people who were satisfied with the process, the Mahajot trailed behind the NDA by 12% votes, while among those who recorded dissatisfaction, it enjoyed an advantage of 22% votes. The dissatisfaction was greater among Bengali Muslims (34%) and Assamese Hindus (27%).

Notably, over half (51%) of dissatisfied Assamese Hindus still backed the NDA, but among the rest, the votes were split between the Mahajot (19%) and the Assam Jatiya Parishad-Raijor Dal (AJP-RD) alliance (25%), with the latter emerging as a more favourable choice while voting. The ‘infiltrator/refugee’ narrative of the NDA, particularly targeting the Badruddin Ajmal-led-All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a Congress ally, perhaps explains this shift to the AJP-RD front.

Two-thirds (63%) of respondents still consider foreigners’ issue important, while 16% think that it has been blown out of proportion. This view was more prevalent among Assamese Hindus (75%) and Muslims (72%) than Bengali Hindus (52%) and Muslims (50%), strengthening the ‘insiders-outsiders’ debate. A solution seems far, as only 39% of respondents thought that the issue can be resolved upon updating the NRC, while 33% opposed that idea.

The author is a researcher at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 6:45:52 AM |

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