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BJP begins canvassing to frame manifesto ahead of Assam assembly elections

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GUWAHATI: The BJP is reaching out to people across Assam to elicit their views before framing its manifesto ahead of the upcoming assembly election. The party has deployed about 100 vehicles with audiovisual presentations to tour the state for the purpose. It has also launched a missed call facility to enable people to make their suggestions.

“We are receiving a tremendous response to the manifesto making exercise,” state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass told ET. “Around 42,000 people have expressed their views through calls and our team is analysing the same.”

Dass further said, “Our MPs, leaders and MLAs are reaching out to people to convey what they want in the manifesto. We want to make a people’s manifesto and take the people into confidence for its drafting.”

Assam is likely to go to the polls in April.

The BJP has set a target of winning 100-plus seats in the 126-member assembly. It currently has 61 members in the House while its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front have 14 and 12 seats respectively.

State finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had recently said that the manifesto would underscore the BJP’s positive regionalism with a staunch nationalist outlook. “By positive regionalism I meant the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardev (the 15th century saint-reformer of Assam) which is being developed must be better than the Golden Temple of Punjab. Assam must be among the top five development states of India.”

He said the party’s manifesto for the previous assembly polls was misunderstood. “In 2016, the BJP manifesto talking about safeguarding jati, mati and bheti (race, land and hearth) was misinterpreted. This time we are making things clear in the manifesto – we will reinforce staunch nationalism,” he said. “The last election manifesto was understood in letter and not spirit. Hindus all over the world are our brothers. How can BJP’s manifesto in Assam be different from the party’s national manifesto of Lok Sabha polls of 2014? From the manifesto of 2016 we were seen as Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) of 1985.”

Assam witnessed bitter protests in 2019 and early 2020 when the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – which aims to make minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible to apply for Indian citizenship – was passed by Parliament. Five people were killed in the protests.

The BJP was accused of not following its manifesto and it was alleged that the party failed to protect race, land and hearth. The AGP, which was formed after the six-year-long anti-foreigners’ movement in 1985, is a partner in the BJP-led government.

Sarma said the reference to “race” was misinterpreted. “We meant Indian civilisation, which is 6,000 years old. In this year’s election, BJP will include in its manifesto certain provisions whereby land cannot be transferred in certain circumstances and to certain people,” he said.

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