New Delhi: A day after the BJP lost three states in the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, there comes good news for the saffron party. If the initial trends in the crucial Assam panchayat election hold, the BJP’s tally is almost double than that of the Congress - heading for a thumping victory. 

The election was widely believed to be a referendum on the BJP’s stance on the National Register of Citizens of India (NRC). Since the poll takes place through ballot papers, the final result will be out only by Thursday morning. But trends show that the BJP is way ahead in all the three categories – gram panchayat (village council), anchalik panchayat (regional council) and gram panchayat president.

How is it a referendum on NRC?

There has been a long-standing demand for identifying the non-Assamese people living in the state through the National Register of Citizen (NRC), that has taken place under the supervision of the Supreme Court. 

Also read: NRC needed for whole country; India isn't 'dharmshala', say Sonowal, Madhav

Though the final draft is out, leaving out close to 40 lakh people’s fate in the limbo, there was an attempt to what the people of Assam call ‘diluting’ the NRC, by its coordinator Prateek Hajela. Not only the AGP and Congress, but the BJP opposed it tooth and nail too, and they prevailed over him in the apex court. So this panchayat election was a clear referendum on whether Assam is happy with BJP’s stance on NRC or not.

What was the ‘dilution’ of NRC attempted by Hajela?

In the final draft, around 20 out of 40 lakh that were left out, were Hindu refugees who were living in Assam for ages. But Hajela proposed to the Supreme Court that rather than considering 15 documents for citizenship, in the appeal level only 10 documents should be considered. His logic was, “It is better to leave out a genuine citizen than include a non-citizen in NRC”. Living in Assam for decades, many of those Hindus and indigenous people of Assam, who were left out, were fuming. They saw this as an attempt to snatch away the right of the Assamese people while the supposed non-Assamese made it to the final draft. The BJP taking a pro-active and strong stand on the issue helped it sail the perception battle.

ULFA(I) making a comeback!

Assam is going through a very crucial time when the perceived victimisation of the Assamese is nicely exploited by the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent [ULFA(I)]. In the last few months, there have been more than a hundred new recruits. In December, a software engineer employed with an MNC, who has worked around the world, chose to join militancy and posed with an AK-47 in a video. He posted the video on Facebook, stating that he joined militancy to ‘save Assam’. All of this is taking place in the backdrop of the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill that plans to change the definition of illegal migrants. It seeks to provide citizenship to illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction. Presuming Assam has to bear the brunt of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees if the Bill is passed, it was termed ‘anti-Assam’ and was campaigned as a handiwork of the BJP.

Also read: Hasina's advisor claims PM Modi assured Bangladesh NRC-excluded people won't be deported

So far, strong initial trends that show the BJP leading with a huge margin, is significant.

Numbers: BJP double of Congress

So far, out of 21,990 village councils, the BJP has won 858 seats, whereas the Congress is at a distant second by winning 455 seats so far. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has won 179 seats, 21 by AIUDF and 163 by others.

There are a total of 2,199 regional councils in Assam that have gone to polls. So far the BJP has managed to win 23 while Congress has won 8, the AGP and AIUDF have won 8 and 1 by others.

Similarly, there are 2,199 gram panchayat president seats. The results so far show a BJP surge. 

While the ruling party has won 41 seats, the Congress has won just eight and the AGP has won seven. 

Perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal’s party AIUDF and others have won just two seats each so far.
Many may dismiss this as a local election with local implications, but whichever way Assam swings, it holds salience. And going by the trend so far, Assam has chosen to show its love for the NRC by giving a huge lead to BJP.