Netas debate history as key issues take back seat

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, April 1: From Nehru’s address to the people of Assam in 1962 to the Nellie massacre of 1983, from the contentious ‘secret killings’ to the controversial killing of five youths in gaon in 1994 – this assembly election in turning out to be a debate between political parties over historical blunders and dark episodes. In the process, real issues concerning voters have taken a back seat – with the development plank emerging as the secondary rrative in poll campaigns.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is leading the pack with repeated attacks on the BJP-AGP combine over alleged secret killings, an issue which was his key election plank even in 2001. During his 15 year rule, Gogoi had constituted three commissions to probe into the alleged killings – but none could identify the killers. Gogoi had even admitted in one of his recent press conferences that he had failed to identify and punish the culprits, if any. Yesterday, at another press conference at Jorhat, Gogoi said that if need be, he would now recommend a CBI probe into the murders.

To counter him, the BJP has raked up the killing and controversial cremation of five youths in gaon in 1994. The saffron party has issued advertisements in the media carrying photographs of the incidents and asking who was responsible for it.

The AIUDF is not to be left behind. In its Vision Document, the party has a full chapter on the 1983 Nellie massacre. The party stokes the memories of the dark chapter to “highlight the brutalities committed on minorities in the State”.

“Even if the people want to forget these dark chapters of the State’s history, the political parties will not let them. Before every election, the political parties rakes up these incidents, blaming each other instead of debating on good governce and their rival’s lack of it,” says Priyam Baruah, a political observer.

Public activist and noted lawyer Nekibur Zaman says democracy comes with freedom of speech. “This election however stands apart as much of political parties’ time has been taken up in blaming each other for past incidents. “No one is talking about development, the economy and key problems facing the State,” Zaman rued.

For many voters, particularly the youth, the rhetoric over the State’s history holds little or no significance. For first time voters Tanvi and Dimple, infrastructure development and employment are what they are looking for. “Education facilities, infrastructure, a clean town and employment are top priorities for me as a first time voter,” says Dimple.

Ankumi Saikia, another first time voter, said “employment is a top priority demand for the next government in Assam.” For some voters, reservation is another major concern.

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