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Assam: No Muslim member in treasury bench, Opposition has 31

No Muslim member in treasury bench, Opposition has 31
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No Muslim member in treasury bench, Opposition has 31

Highlights

For the first time in 50 years, the treasury bench of the 126-member new Assam Assembly will not have any Muslim member even as 31 members from the community, the second-highest in 38 years, have been elected in the recently concluded elections.

Guwahati: For the first time in 50 years, the treasury bench of the 126-member new Assam Assembly will not have any Muslim member even as 31 members from the community, the second-highest in 38 years, have been elected in the recently concluded elections.

In this year's elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party put up eight Muslim candidates, the Congress fielded 17, while the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) nominated 19 Muslims and a Hindu candidate.

Of the 31 Muslims elected to the new House, the second-highest after the controversial 1983 elections during the height of the Assam agitation, 16 are from the Congress and 15 from the AIUDF.

In the outgoing House, the NDA comprising BJP, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People's Front (BPF), had 86 members with Aminul Haque Laskar being the Muslim representative.

Laskar, 55, who was the Deputy Speaker in the Assembly, could not retain his Sonai seat in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley where he was defeated by Karim Uddin Barbhuiya of AIUDF by a margin of 19,654 votes.

The AIUDF was one of the main allies of the Congress-led 10-party 'Mahajot' (grand alliance) that won 50 seats against the 75 seats won by the BJP led alliance. Jailed anti-CAA activist and prominent peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, the president of the newly floated Raijor Dal, won the remaining seat from Sibsagar as an Independent candidate. The Congress and the AIUDF won 29 and 16 seats, respectively, improving their 2016 performance by three seats each.

Meanwhile, some supporters of Akhil Gogoi walked up to quarter number 53 in the MLA complex in the city and put up a paper plaque bearing his name. The quarter was occupied by AGP leader Brindaban Goswami, who was denied a ticket this time.

Activist Gogoi, is in jail since December 2019 on charges of sedition and inciting violence during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act movement, has won from Sibsagar, once a communist bastion that the Congress took over in 2001.

Among the enduring images that come up when one speaks of Akhil are of him standing on the steps of a bus requisitioned by police to take protesters into custody as he shouts slogans decrying the government for its acts of omission or commission, or of him being surrounded and led by the police, again, for another stint in jail, or of leading siege on institutions found committing wrong, or of him waving a sheaf of papers that reply to RTI queries and which reveal wrongdoings…He has been a thorn in the government's flesh protesting against land swap deal with Bangladesh, big dam projects in the Northeast or disinvestment in the PSUs before taking up the cudgels against CAA, which in his view would destroy the Assamese identity by giving citizenship to 1.90 crores post-1971 Hindu Bengali migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

It was this track record that health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had in mind when, while welcoming him, advised that Gogoi should function within the constitution and refrain from burning tyres on the roads. His supporters would perhaps want him to remain the Akhil Gogoi they have known and even gone to jail with, the quintessential protester.

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