Guwahati: Assam's All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) is contesting some 19 seats as part of the grand alliance this time in the poll-bound state. This is the first time the AIUDF has formed a pre-election alliance with its former rival, Congress.
In the 2016 assembly election, division of voters between the Congress and the AIUDF led to a BJP victory in over 20 seats.
While speaking to Madhyamam, the three-time Dhubri MP and AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal stressed that AIUDF is ready for 'any kind of sacrifice and go to any extent' to remove BJP from power.
"BJP is not only a threat to Assam but for the nation at large. It is a threat to the Indian Constitution and religious freedom," Ajmal said.
The perfume baron went on to blame the BJP of pushing aside all important agendas (development, unemployment, farm crisis and floods) and playing only on the Hindutva agenda.
"We will be left behind by 200 to 300 years if they stay in power further," he said. The ruling BJP in the state has repeatedly attacked Ajmal accusing him of being an 'enemy' of the state.
"It is a political conspiracy and whenever an election is round the corner, these accusations are hurled," Ajmal said
"BJP is a communal party. They want to build a Hindu rashtra (nation). We are fighting for secularism. Look at the status of the state. There is no new industry, the two paper mills have shut down. The CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) has not been implemented. The National Register of Citizens is stuck... There is unemployment and price rise," Ajmal said.
Ajmal ruled out any possibility of him becoming the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance, adding the BJP was spreading propaganda.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is the main agenda of AIUDF in this election?
Ajmal: We have already declared Assam Accord should be implemented, CAA should be scrapped and NRC should be implemented. Flood erosion should be checked. Inflation, unemployment, farmers issues should be resolved. The two defunct paper Mills should be reopened. We have promised to work on this and will try to do so.
The opposition saying this alliance is setting up to please the minority?
Ajmal: No, not at all. Is this Assam Accord only for minorities? Is CAA, NRC only for minorities? Are the problems of flood inflation etc. only minorities' problems? No. All are affected by these depending on the area and circumstances.
A narrative is being built up that AIUDF is anti BJP and the Hindu how will you overcome this?
Ajmal: You see, from the beginning we co-operated with Hindu people. When we projected 79 candidates, we included 29 people from Hindu community. We have given tickets to people belonging to various castes, tribes, tea tribes etc.
BJP has a stand that clause 6 of Assam Accord has some legal contradictions with some Supreme Court rulings. So as a party do you AIUDF support 1951 as base year?
Ajmal: No. We are complying with Assam Accord according to which 1971 March 24 is the cut off date for detection and deportation of illegal migrants. No other base years.
It is said that even if Congress supports 1951; what do you have to say regarding this ?
Ajmal: No. Congress never said like this till date. If anyone from Congress says it personally then it's a different thing altogether. But why Congress would say like this as this accord was signed under Rajiv Gandhi government.
Why do people say that there is no second line of face behind you?
Ajmal: Everyone is there. See, if I bring my children to the party it would be labelled as nepotism. But there are people like Hafiz Bashir Ahmed who is next to me, then Aminul Islam is there. If any of my children wants to contest election or want to serve the party and the party found him or her competent after for say, 10-15 years later and gives him/her legacy, it'll be their decision. I might or might not be there to see.
BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma claims that this election will be a war of civilization, portraying AIUDF and you (Mr. Ajmal) as enemies of Assam. What is your reaction to this?
He curses me in any way; calls me Mughal and all, but are all the Muslims descendants of Mughals? In fact there is no trace that we are directly related to Mughals. They have come from the Thailand/Burma region. If we are Mughals or foreigners, then they too are. He is trying to abuse us as a community. Neither the Assamese minority Muslims are Mughals nor Badaruddin Azmal is Mughal. We should fight back as a community against this type of defaming.
Sharma is claiming you're taking funds from extremist groups?
It's been 3 months since this was claimed and their party is in power. How could a foreign fund come without finance ministry's hundred percent scrutiny? If there were any such problems, why could they not take action against us till now?