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Divisive Politics of a ‘Paper Tiger’ and His Covert Weapon Playing out in Assam: Ajit Bhuyan

In a conversation with NewsClick, Bhuyan calls CM Sarma a “paper tiger” and talks about the clandestine, yet widely known, relationship between the BJP and AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal.
 Divisive Politics of a ‘Paper Tiger’ and His Cover Weapon Playing out in Assam: Ajit Bhuyan

Ajit Bhuyan, an independent MP from Assam in Rajya Sabha, has lodged an FIR in Guwahati against CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, accusing him of promulgating polarisation on communal lines. In the recent series of events, right after the publication of the delimitation draft meant specifically for Assam, the state politics became engulfed in divisive political statements involving both the CM and the AIUDF chief Badaruddin Ajmal, as alleged by the opposition parties. Bhuyan has been one of the most vocal critics of this “divisive” discourse. He, as a result, has been a target of verbal attacks from the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Bhuyan, largely seen as the opposition MP representing Assam in Rajya Sabha, made headlines also when he openly challenged the CM on 35 points of unfulfillment of his earlier promises.

A few days back, Sarma was seen commenting that “if youths come out from Upper Assam, then I will clean the Miyas (the migrant Muslims of East Bengal origin) from Guwahati and snatch all economic control from them”. This came as a reply to AIUDF’s Ajmal Badruddin’s ambiguous comments in Dhubri while opposing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).

NewsClick spoke to Ajit Bhuyan in order to understand how he sees these developments in Assam, whether he thinks there is a political ploy brewing in the state and the way forward for different players in the state.

When asked how he sees Sarma and Ajmal in the present context, Bhuyan asserted: “The script is written by Sarma for sure. The tactic is to deviate the masses from the issue of delimitation, which has led to widescale discontent and protests in Assam.”

He believes that Sarma has no love for the people and is “hell-bent on destroying Assam”. He said, “Ajmal, meanwhile, is the weapon for Sarma. We remember how Sarma and his party used Ajmal’s name during the Assembly election of 2021. In fact, Sarma and BJP fought the entire election bringing up Ajmal’s name saying that the latter will become the CM of Assam if people don’t vote for the BJP.”

It is now widely believed in Assam that Sarma and Ajmal are colluding to “propel divisive politics”. But Congress, curiously, has chosen to target the AIUDF chief specifically with an eye on his constituency, Dhubri, according to political observers.

Bhuyan said, “I think Congress is doing the right thing. It became clear that taking Ajmal into the united opposition fold is problematic. Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Borah had to discuss the issue with the central leadership for several rounds because Delhi does not understand the nuances of the scenario back in Assam. But the central leadership understood and now they don’t intervene in Assam. The Assam in-charge Jitendra Singh is also very cooperative in this regard.”

Locating the controversial leader in state politics, he said, “Ajmal himself says that he has his people in the opposition, especially in Congress. And we also saw his hobnobbing with Sarma after the election. We also know that Sarma has said explicitly that he has a good relationship with Ajmal and Ajmal does not disregard his requests.”

“It’s not only about the Dhubri constituency but about the state politics. Moreover, Ajmal is fast losing his grip on the Muslim voters; they don’t believe him. The onslaught of the BJP on the Muslims could not be resisted by Ajmal. So, how long will he be regarded by the community?” questioned Bhuyan.

When asked about how he perceives All Assam Students’ Union’s (AASU) aggressive stance, Bhuyan opined, “AASU has always talked about Assam Accord and its Article 6, the NRC and now they openly support the BJP over delimitation. They talk about protecting the rights of the Assamese people, but now in the people’s name, AASU is protecting the Hindutva agenda.”

“However, some of the grassroots activists of AASU are still very dedicated and they don’t realise the hobnobbing of the central leadership, especially of Samujjal Bhattacharya (the chief adviser), with the ruling party – especially with Sarma. Samujjal is misleading people over the delimitation issue while he tries to justify his support for it,” he alleged.

Furthermore, Bhuyan stated that the AASU’s claims have become irrelevant now, as they are aligned with the ruling party. He also brought up Basanta Deka, a long-term adviser of AASU, who openly expressed that AASU has betrayed the martyrs of the Assam movement and is now willing to fulfil the RSS’s agenda instead.

Alleging that CM Sarma has failed on all fronts, he said, “I challenged him using 35 points and showed his failure in fulfilling his electoral promises, but he could not accept it. He has an enormous amount of money with him and a part of the media, with which he thinks he can continue capturing power. Tell me whether he could do anything without the police in his control. He is surviving on lies; he is a glib and a paper tiger.”

“The treasury is empty and he creates more freebees by taking loans. He has made Assam a liquor state. While illegal syndicates proliferate in his regime, he increases taxes on people. But there is growing resentment against him, even inside the BJP, claimed Bhuyan. He cited the example of Ashok Sarma, the former Nalbari MLA, to talk about the dissent within the BJP. “The MLA alleged that the party is under unqualified leadership. Sarma is completely silent on this, which is strange. The state president of BJP is under the influence of Sarma and there is no leader to speak against him. But many are feeling the pressure, which can lead to a burst in the future,” he said.

Recently, Sarma claimed that he helped Bhuyan win the Rajya Sabha election after the FIR was filed. “Had he really helped me, then the BJP should have taken action against Sarma. Why should he help an opposition candidate to win the election? Is this not harming the BJP?” questioned Bhuyan.

“Contrary to it, Sarma was ready to spend Rs 200 crore to ensure my defeat. But that did not materialise. He approached Congress and others. A few people from Congress might have thought otherwise, but the leadership crushed his plan. We feel ashamed to say these things in public, but when he rubbishes, this needs to be said,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bhuyan highlighted that people, by and large, have not reacted to the divisive ploy of Sarma with the support of Ajmal. He pointed out that the citizens of Assam are facing significant hardships, such as floods, rising prices, and increasing unemployment. “They understand the issues and the political tactics being employed. For how long would the people trust Sarma, especially when flood relief has not yet been provided to the affected individuals in many places across Assam?” he asked, pointing to the need for more focus on grave issues on the ground.

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