Other States

Bandh in Assam in protest against denial of ministerial berth to MLA

Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal pose for a photograph with newly sworn-in Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of state with independent charge after the swearing-in ceremony, at Raj Bhawan in Guwahati on Thursday.

Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal pose for a photograph with newly sworn-in Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of state with independent charge after the swearing-in ceremony, at Raj Bhawan in Guwahati on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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On Thursday, seven MLAs were inducted into the Sonowal Ministry.

A group of nine organisations including the Jatiya Aikya Mancha, the All Tiwa Students’ Union, the Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union and the Chutiya Jati Sanmilan enforced a 12-hour shutdown on Friday in protest against the non-inclusion of MLA Ramakanta Deuri, who represents BJP from the Morigaon Assembly seat, in Assam's Sarbananda Sonowal Ministry that was expanded on Thursday.

The bandh was effective only in Morigaon district, but it led to stray incidents of violence with protesters burning a few vehicles. Communication, district officials said, was affected on an arterial highway that connects Guwahati to eastern Assam. The highway passes through Morigaon district.

“The expansion of the ministry, delayed for almost two months, was unfair on the tribes of Assam. Our MLA’s inclusion could have portrayed the BJP as a more inclusive party,” a spokesperson of the coordination committee of the protesting NGOs said.

Tiwa and Chutiya are tribes while the Koch-Rajbonshi community is demanding Scheduled Tribe status along with five others.

MLA relaunches old party

Mr. Deuri was the chief of the Tiwa Jatiya Aikya Mancha before the BJP offered to field him from the Morigaon constituency. A month ago, he had embarrassed the BJP leaders by deciding to relaunch his old party as Jatiya Aikya Mancha.

Mr. Deuri also fielded candidates from his party for the coming panchayat polls in alliance with Asom Gana Parishad, one of the BJP’s two regional allies in the State.

The BJP, keen on going it alone in the panchayat polls, chose not to confront Mr. Deuri and allowed him to go ahead with his plans. The party said “rural polls are area-specific and have no bearing on the larger political scenario” in Assam.

On Thursday, seven MLAs were inducted into the Sonowal Ministry, taking the number of Ministers to 18. The State can have another Minister.

Of the seven, five are from the BJP and one each from the AGP and the Bodoland People’s Front.

The expansion did not go down well with a section of BJP leaders who quit key party posts in protest.

Frequent shutdowns 

Assam had more than a decade ago earned the ‘Bandh Pradesh’ tag because of shutdowns imposed by various organisations – underground and legitimate – at the drop of a hat. The duration of some of these shutdowns, less frequent these days, are of 1,000 hours or more.

A 2016 report by Oil India Limited, headquartered at Duliajan in eastern Assam, says the petroleum exploration major loses an average ₹ 60 crore in oil and gas production annually due to disturbances caused by bandhs and road blockades.

In 2012, Arun Pathak, a Guwahati-based businessman, filed a public interest litigation petition against bandhs in Assam. In its petition to the Gauhati High Court much later, the State government said Assam witnessed 68 bandh calls in 2014.

Official estimates say that a 12-hour bandh costs the State government about ₹ 44 crore. Assam’s Commerce and Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the Assembly that the State incurred a loss of more than ₹1,028 crore due to 17 bandhs in 2017.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 10:39:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-bandh-to-protest-denial-of-ministerial-berth-to-mla/article23694153.ece

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