Rajya Sabha MP and Political Secretary to Assam CM, Pabitra Margherita, shares profound insights with Dibya Kamal Bordloi North East Bureau Chief and unveils Assam’s political tapestry. Margherita navigates through the nuanced political landscape of Assam and the Northeast, offering a unique perspective on current affairs and future trajectories. Excerpts:
Let’s delve into the recent events in Assam regarding Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.” What is your reaction to the rally passing through Assam?
Pabitra Margherita: Thank you for having me. Regarding the rally, it’s quite evident that the expectations of a massive turnout were not met. The administration anticipated a significant number of attendees, especially considering Rahul Gandhi’s statue. However, the reality was starkly different. The indigenous Assamese-inhabited areas saw minimal attendance, ranging from 500 to 1500, except for a higher number in minority-populous areas in Nagaon district. In Majuli, where they previously garnered substantial support, only 200-300 people gathered. Several roadshows in Upper Assam had to be cancelled. This indicates a clear disassociation of the people of Assam from the Congress party.
What, in your opinion, led to the failure of the rally in Assam?
I believe Rahul Gandhi approached Assam more like a tourist than a serious political leader. It seemed more like a vacation or picnic for him, given the natural beauty of Assam and the pleasant weather. The state is currently peaceful, devoid of violence or agitation under the BJP government, progressing steadily. The rally’s failure might have frustrated them, leading to the unfortunate incident where they attacked the police in Guwahati on January 22nd, seeking media attention. Despite an agreement to avoid entering Guwahati city during a meeting with the police commissioner on January 21st, they clashed with the police the next day. Fortunately, the people of Assam played a pivotal role in making Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Anyay’ Jatra a super flop.
You recently criticised Rahul Gandhi’s definition of India in the Rajya Sabha. Can you elaborate on that?
Certainly. In a tweet on February 10th, 2022, Rahul Gandhi stated, “There is strength in our nation, our union of culture, our union of diversity, our union of languages, our union of people and our union of states from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to West Bengal, India is beautiful in all its colours. Don’t insult the spirit of India.” However, the notable absence of the Northeast in his definition of India is a cause for concern. We are seven states in the Northeast, integral parts of India for thousands of years. Unfortunately, for the leader of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the concept of India seems to end in West Bengal. I refer to him as a political tourist, as he appears to lack clarity even on the map of India while talking about unifying the country.
CM Himanta Biswa Sarma mentioned that the Nyay Yatra in Assam is essentially a ‘Miya’ Yatra. Do you believe Congress engages in appeasement politics?
The areas targeted during the so-called Nyay Yatra are predominantly those with a majority of Bangladesh-origin Muslims (Miya), such as Samaguri in Nagaon district or Chapar in Dhubri district. It’s evident that the Congress party relies on appeasement politics, particularly targeting migrant Muslims in Assam, and their loyalty to the Gandhi family. The Congress now seems to operate more like a private limited company run by the Gandhi-Nehru family. However, our Chief Minister has not discriminated in development works. Following the ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ policy, our government is ensuring all-around development in these areas. Dhubri now has a medical college, an airport, and developed roads. Unlike Congress, we are committed to the holistic development of all regions, not just to secure vote banks.
It appears that these areas have been more peaceful in the last 9 years compared to Congress’s tenure. What is your take on it?
Absolutely. During Congress’s tenure, Assam witnessed numerous communal clashes, both at the center and state levels. However, since PM Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and our government was formed in 2016, not a single instance of ethnic or religious clash has occurred in Assam. Our government prioritizes service to the people over communal politics. The crime rates in Assam have significantly declined by 48 percent, with the number of crimes dropping from 1.3 lakh in 2021 to 70 thousand in 2023. Crimes against women also decreased by 23 percent during the same period. Our tough actions against child marriage have led to a significant decline, and the Maternal Mortality Rate has decreased by almost 30 percent in the state. These are indicators of good governance by the BJP, and we are confident of winning 11 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in the 2024 general elections.
Could you provide details on the specific works done by the BJP government in the Northeast in the last two tenures?
PM Narendra Modi believes that the Northeast should be the growth engine of India. Under his leadership, the budgetary allocation for the region has increased threefold, from 36 thousand crores to nearly 1 lakh crores in the last 9 and a half years. PM Modi’s genuine interest in the Northeast is reflected in his 64 visits to the region in his two tenures, a stark contrast to other PMs. This demonstrates the commitment and love of Narendra Modi for the development of the Northeast.
The state government is introducing a bill to ban polygamy in Assam and address ‘Love Jihad.’ Can you provide details on the framework?
Polygamy is not an accepted practice in Indian society, and our CM is focusing on women’s empowerment by aiming to ban polygamy. This move is particularly aimed at areas where we’ve seen individuals marrying multiple wives, contributing to population explosions and large family sizes. It’s also a step towards protecting women’s freedom and ensuring social balance and harmony. Additionally, with the new act ‘Nyay Samhita’ by the central government, we hope to control the ill practice of ‘Love Jihad,’ especially prevalent in Assam. Both these acts are expected to be blessings for the women of our state.