With fears of likely polarisation of the Assam electorate in the run up to the 2016 polls expressed frequently, a recent public meeting held at Islampur in Hojai in gaon district has set tongues wagging in political circles. Hojai is considered the citadel of AIUDF supremo and State Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind president Badaruddin Ajmal. So eyebrows were raised in different quarters when the Assam branch of the all-India Islamic organisation Jamaat-Ulema-e-Hind organised a meet presided over by Mufti Ibadur Rahman Kasimi with the organisation’s tiol president Maula Shoaib Kasimi participating in the meet. More surprising was the participation of RSS leader Indresh Kumar as chief guest, along with some BJP leaders, who were felicitated on stage. The message of this meet was commul harmony, with Jamaat president Maula Shoaib Kasimi expounding on the ‘unity in diversity’ tradition of India. He also cautioned against the divisive agenda of some political parties in a composite society which celebrates Eid, Deepawali and Holi with equal fervour. The question making the rounds is — how did Jamaat dare to send out a such a message in Badaruddin Ajmal’s backyard, which is so different to what he has been reiterating in every election and electoral meet. Trying to hide their deep discomfiture, a section of Jamiat leaders are now alleging that it is actually the RSS that is behind the floating of the Jamaat organisation, and the close similarity in their mes is designed to ‘confuse Muslim voters’.
RSS leader Indresh Kumar however gave a different twist to the controversy when he claimed in his speech at the meet that Ajmal has ‘long been maintaining clandestine links with RSS leaders’. Kumar further alleged that in his earlier visit to Assam last year, Ajmal had ‘persolly thanked’ him for working for the tion’s good. Interestingly, the AIUDF supremo has not yet loudly refuted Indresh Kumar’s allegations in clear terms, instead deputing a party functiory to issue a denial. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Badaruddin Ajmal had commented famously that ‘Allah will not forgive’ him if he joined hands with the BJP. But as the Dhubri MP in Parliament, Ajmal has tried to remain on the right side of the Modi government, which was evident when he extended support to the NDA when it was forming the government at the Centre last year. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has now added fuel to the fire by alleging that the Jamaat meeting in Hojai could materialise only because ‘Ajmal has been having an understanding with the BJP-RSS all along’. While the AIUDF supremo has never adopted an overtly commul agenda, he has clearly positioned his party to represent a votebank which was once the exclusive preserve of the Congress. Ajmal versus the saffron camp is a long-running battle which political circles apprehend will lead to aggressive polarisation in the State going for Assembly elections early next year. But if he is keeping back-channel links with the Sangh Parivar open for political, business or other reasons, then it only goes to show that divisive agenda of political parties is merely the vehicle for catching votes and capturing power.
From its inception, the AIUDF has targeted the religious minority votebank, sweeping away the Congress from one constituency after the other in lower and middle Assam. As for the Congress in Assam, it seems to be in two minds with one section bent on Ajmal-bashing while others favour an ‘understanding’ if not alliance with the AIUDF. But the ruling party is certainly reaping the bitter harvest of what it sowed in Assam over decades. The Congress has bent over backwards to accommodate lakhs of Bangladeshi migrants in the State, getting laws like Illegal Migrants Detection Act (IMDT) ected to block their detection and tinkering with the Citizenship Act to regularize them. But upstaged by the AIUDF in the last few years, the Congress is forced to watch its prized Bangladeshi votebank disintegrating and slipping away inexorably. So when Tarun Gogoi pours vitriol on Badaruddin Ajmal for ‘secretly hobnobbing’ with the RSS, or puts the RSS-Bajrang Dal on the same footing with militant outfits like the ULFA, or sees a deep political conspiracy in the Jamaat and RSS coming together on the same platform — it is indicative of the identity crisis that has gripped the Congress in Assam. Accusing the BJP for polarising voters on commul lines all over the country does not absolve the Congress for long pursuing, and in fact fine-tuning, the same nefarious strategy to divide the electorate and keep it separated.