Former leader of opposition in Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia is the son of former Assam chief minister Hiteshwar Saikia, who was instrumental in the signing of the Assam Accord. Saikia is one of the frontrunners for the top post of Chief Minister in case Congress comes to power. The other person is Ripun Bora, state president of the party.
Speaking in an interview, Saikia said there is no dearth of leaders in the state and the party will decide on the issue when the time comes. He also slammed the BJP for allegedly luring opposition candidates and said the mandate of the people should be honoured. Edited excerpts:
Q: What are your expectations after three phases of elections in the state?
A-In the first phase, the BJP’s divide and rule policy did not work and the Congress is going to do well. The last time we had fared badly in Upper Assam because of the BJP’s divisive agenda. But it has failed since the people of Assam want to live in harmony. They don’t want to live as the BJP wants them to. The people are not used to live on communal lines and polarisation has not worked. This is the reason why the Congress will march ahead to form the government.
Q: Do you think that the Congress’s five guarantee scheme has worked?
A-The five guarantees that the Congress has given have resonated with the public. Definitely, price rise has affected each and every person. The GST and then Covid have affected people badly. The promises which were made by the BJP have not got fulfilled and the only agenda with which the BJP wanted to fight elections was communal politics which has proved futile for them.
Q: What about central funds for the NE region?
A: There has been special funding for the region but after the BJP government came to power, this special funding has been stopped by the Centre. So, the development has been affected. Because of this, it will prove counter-productive for the BJP. The rise in prices of LPG, petroleum products and pulses…everything has increased and this will affect the BJP.
Q: What about the CAA issue?
A: There was a massive agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act in which five youth had died and this was an emotional issue for the people of Assam. In the Assam Accord, it was decided that people who came before 1971 would be given citizenship rights but now the BJP wants to give citizenship rights to people who came till 2014. This is unacceptable to the people of Assam and the Assam Accord was signed when my father was chief minister of the state. The elected Congress government was sacrificed so that peace could prevail.
Q: Himanta Biswa Sarma, your former colleague, has been boasting that the BJP will form the government and get 90 plus seats…
A: The BJP is not certain. Sometimes they say they will get hundred-plus then they say 90-plus. Then they give other figures and this proves that the BJP is not certain how many seats they will get because they have failed to fulfil the commitments, the promises made during the last elections.
Q: Why did you have to shift your alliance candidates to two different states?
A: This is very unhealthy and undemocratic that the candidates are being lured by the BJP. How can a national ruling party allow someone or its leaders to engineer defections, sometimes under duress?
Q: You were the leader of opposition and you are the natural claimant for the Chief Minister post if Congress comes to power?
A: Not necessarily, our party has so many people and there is a pool of leaders. It was necessary that we fight unitedly against the BJP and every Congressman wanted that BJP should be defeated. So we fought unitedly and as I have seen that our party takes the opinion of the MLAs. Then the high command will decide. Let us wait for the outcome. (IANS)