//Muslim coalition spoils Cong's party

Muslim coalition spoils Cong's party

Sumon K Chakrabarti CNN-IBN,  April 10, 2006

Dhubri (Assam): Political parties in Assam treat Muslims as a vote bank. But this election a Muslim millionaire is conducting an experiment: He has formed a coalition of Muslim parties and has told Muslims that it’s their party.

Badruddin Ajmal's Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) has a single-point agenda: uprooting the Congress. And being the richest candidate this election means he doesn’t lack resources to do that.

Muslim-dominated Lower Assam is a Congress stronghold, but Ajmal says his "Muslim experiment" will wipe out the party.


"Yes, this is an experiment. It's an experiment to unify all Muslims of the state,” says Ajmal, who is contesting from the south Salmara constituency.

For that experiment, Muslim clergymen of different hues – many of them from influential seminaries in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi – have been hired to woo people.

In a vast stretch of Lower Assam, this experiment has already hurt the Congress's chances. Muslim-dominated south Salmara was a Congress stronghold, but Ajmal’s campaigning has hurt the party in just a few months.

"We were with the Congress for 10 years, but they did nothing for the minority community. So, now the Muslims are a vote bank of the AUDF," says former Congress member Mukhtajir Rehman.

And for once, the BJP and the Congress are on the same side when it comes to condemning the AUDF. The BJP says the Muslim coalition is step toward a greater Bangladesh.

"A substantial number of people coming here with sinister designs to make Assam some kind of brihat Bangladesh," says BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. Once a Hindu majority town, illegal immigration from Bangladesh has completely changed the demography in Dhubri.

Many other constituencies in lower Assam too have become a part of this experiment and might end up polarising the politics of Assam along communal lines forever.

Around 82.27 lakh voters will exercise their franchise on Monday in the second phase of Assam Assembly elections, which will decide the fate of 482 candidates in 61 constituencies.

The electorate, comprising 42.50 lakh male and nearly equal number of females, will cast their ballot in 8,995 polling stations amid tight security. The Election Commission has deployed 42,000 security and police personnel.

AGP president and chief ministerial candidate Brindabon Goswami, former chief minister and AGP(P) president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Health Minister Bhumidhar Barman and Home Minister Rockybul Hussain are top candidates in the second phase.