Sunday, April 3, 2016

A high voltage yet hollow campaign…

The main contenders for Chief Ministership - Tarun Gogoi and Sarbananda Sonowal. Photo Coutesy:
A high voltage election campaign has recently come to an end in Barak Valley. This time, all the major political parties have accorded tremendous importance to the 15 seats here and a bevy of national leaders have toured the region in the last few days.

BJP has in fact, sent almost all its senior leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party President Amit Shah and senior ministers like Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari and Smriti Irani. Congress, on the other hand had rallies by vice president Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

All the leaders, irrespective of the party, have promised the moon to the voters. While BJP has blamed the Congress for the backwardness of the region, the Congress, at least in Silchar has tried to convey that present MLA Dilip Paul has been a failure in addressing the concerns of the people.

Now, after the conclusion of the campaign, its decision time for us voters. Thousands will surely throng the voting booths tomorrow and cast their votes to decide the fate of the candidates, but have there been any major ‘take aways’ from the high pitched campaign that we witnessed? Could any party or leader transcend the usual rhetoric of allegations and counter allegations and provide a vision for the development of Barak Valley? The answer, most unfortunately is an emphatic ‘no’.

Apart from economic and infrastructural backwardness, the people of Barak Valley today also suffer from acute identity crisis. Since the educated local youths do not get government jobs, thousands leave the valley every year in search of greener pastures to different parts of the country. The text books of the state of Assam do not teach about the history and origin of Barak Valley and when the people from this region travel to Brahmaputra valley, they are often perceived as illegal Bangladeshi intruders.

Many leaders from the Brahmaputra valley have spoken about bridging the gap between the two valleys of Assam, but unless these existential issues of the people are addressed, the ever widening gap will never get bridged. The crucial D voter issue is also integral to the question of identity, but no party has gone beyond lip service since any assurance to the people would have severely impacted poll prospects in other parts of Assam, where ‘illegal Bangladeshi intrusion’ is a major poll issue.

Both the Congress and BJP have promised to set up wings of the state secretariat in Silchar, so that the people are saved from the ordeal of traveling to Guwahati frequently for official requirements. BJP has also promised that all junior level state government jobs  will go to locals. These are welcome promises and let us hope they are kept by the party that comes to power.

The roads of the valley need immediate repair and their poor condition is one of the ruling Congress party’s biggest failures. This issue will need immediate attention so that at least commuting within the valley becomes easier.

The leaders from Barak Valley will also have to assert themselves more aggressively in Dispur. In the last few terms, the absence of an assertive leader with pan Assam appeal has hurt the valley badly. All the leaders from Barak Valley, across party lines, simply act as stooges of the bigger leaders in Dispur and do not seem to have the necessary courage to stand up for the issues faced by the people.

In the last assembly, there were almost no protests against issues such as harassment of people due to the NRC exercise, the D Voter controversy, the continuous appointment of Brahmaputra valley candidates for junior grade jobs in Assam governmet’s offices in the valley and so on. This has to end and the MLAs will have to show the necessary courage to stand up for the people.

In conclusion, come, let us make tomorrow count. Let us elevate ourselves from the prejudices of religion and ideology and vote for the best candidates in our constituencies. Let us not succumb to the lures of money or liquor and exercise our rights as citizens of India!!

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Silchar through the Lense