Silchar: If the combined alchemy of Modi and Shah can turn the table against adversaries in elections, Sonowal and Himanta synthesis is no less than it. It was well seen by the voters of Barak Valley when the poll blitzkrieg of the duo set the Thames on fire by wresting the elusive Lok Sabha seats of Silchar and Karimganj from Congress and AIUDF respectively in 2019. Now, the target is to retain the Ratabari assembly seat under Karimganj parliamentary constituency, vacated by the incumbent Kripanath Mallah due to his win in the LS election.
It is again left to Himanta Biswa Sarma, the most popular face in the valley and a heavy weight minister of Sarbananda Sonowal Ministry, to set the sailing of BJP candidate Bijoy Malakar in the four-corner contest easy and safe. The only other candidate to throw gauntlet before him is Keshab Prasad Rajak of Congress. Two others in the fray are Birenda Rabidas of SUCI (Communist) and Parikshit Roy of Independent.
Against this backdrop, opposition has made BJP accountable for its failure to meet the basic demands of good connectivity, safe drinking water, health services and uninterrupted power supply despite the fact it is their government at the Centre and the State. Quite surprisingly, the once most flourishing sugar mill of Ratabari, now defunct, is not on the agenda of any political party. Perhaps, for them immediate issues are of more concern. But, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Minister of Industry, has alternative plan for an industry, a poll campaign of BJP.
Congress has many of its stalwarts on campaign trail who included Ripon Bora, Pradyut Bordoloi, Debabrata Saikia and Kamakhya Dey Purkayastha. All hit out at BJP for its failure to deliver goods and to bring about any change in Ratabari’s socio-economic structure. BJP is also being put on the dock to put up a non tea tribe candidate and also an outsider. Much of the sheen of opposition haranguing no more carries weight as Biprajyoti Das, a resident of Ramkrishna Nagar, said, “People voted for Modi in Lok Sabha polls. Now also they are for Modi and his development plank.”
During his two day campaign of the constituency, Himanta Biswa Sarma addressing a number of rallies virtually changed the whole equation by playing to the gallery. He knew the sentiments of Hindu Bengalis and assured them by November–December CAB would be passed. He dared Congress to oppose it. It received tumultuous applaud from the crowds, enough to put Congress in discomfiture. To add much edge to drum up support, BJP state President, Ranjit Dass, today addressed four poll meetings and appealed to the psyche of the crowd by assuring only BJP can push the development agenda. SUCI and Independent candidates have nothing more than to make their presence felt. It is BJP versus Congress and from all account, the balance is heavily tilted in favour of Bijoy Malakar.
Apart from all the demagoguery, the tea tribe community has been much benefited by welfare schemes of free ration of the BJP government. Brahamanda Kurmi, a tea worker, admits it and says his tribe in the 19 tea estates of the constituency counting for 32,000 votes have little choice than to side with the party in power at Delhi and Dispur. Hindu Bengalis, who constitute around 40% of the electorate, cant not but support BJP knowing fully well the stand of Congress on CAB. Of course, the greatest bait for Congress are Muslims who in the absence of any AIUDF candidate in the fray are likely to favour INC.
In the final analysis, BJP has lined up its top leaders who included Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Naba Kumar Doley, Aminul Haque Laskar, Dr Rajdeep Roy among others to whip up support for Bijoy Malakar. But, it is not campaign alone but behind it lays the art and science of winning the confidence and trust of electorates. It is not without significance that Himanta Biswa Sarma sat with the GPs of all the 19 tea estates to consolidate tea tribe votes. Kripanath Mallah, 3 time winner from the constituency, is a big factor. All said and done, it is ultimately the voters to have the last choice.