Assam Northeast

Assam’s chhar and chaporis: A litmus test for BJP’s “development” slogan

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bids to trump the immigrant issues in Assam’s Muslim heartland – the chhar and chapori – with “development.”

“This time people have decided to vote for BJP because they want development,” said Debomoy Sanyal, BJP’s candidate for Dhubri constituency where barring once, 1991, the saffron party had never won.

Among the 40 constituencies that are in the fray in the third and final phase of Assam elections at least 10 are within the chhars (river islands) and chaporis (flood-prone riverbanks) along the River Brahmaputra that widens and takes a sluggish course passing through Goalpara, Dhubri and South Salmara Mankachar districts in western Assam before entering Bangladesh. Dhubri and South Salmara Mankachar also shares porous riverine borders with the neighbouring country.

Barring Bilasipara East and Golakganj – both in Dhubri district – the BJP hadn’t won in any of those ten seats while the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Congress won four each. Now that the duo is stitched into an alliance, the chhar chhaporis of Assam will be their vantage ground.

A considerable number of people are miffed at the incumbent BJP-led government especially after the update of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2019 that had left out 19 lakh people, many from western Assam, staring at citizenship being stripped away from them. Their angst had further been aggravated after the Assam government had revealed that it backed re-verification of 20 per cent of the final list of the updated NRC in the bordering states with Bangladesh and 10 per cent elsewhere.

AIUDF, which had won over the past three consecutive terms from Dhubri, one of the 10 Assembly constituencies within the Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency that had elected AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal in the past two consecutive terms, have fielded, last term’s sitting legislator Nazrul Hoque. The Congress fielded candidate Abedur Zaman who would have a friendly contest with the AIUDF as both thee parties are stitched in an alliance.

In the Goalpara East constituency, Congress candidate Abdul Kalam Alam, while casting his vote said, “Out of 40 seats in the third phase, the Congress-led ‘Mahajath’ will win in all the 40. This time we are quite confident because in the last five years the BJP government has done nothing for our people.”

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