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CM Sonowal’s First Major Test: Bodoland Council’s Land Allotment for Patanjali Trust

Assam’s newly sworn-in Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is in for a major political test, which will guage the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s resolve and claims of fostering development in Assam. The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) has stirred a hornet’s nest by allotting 3,800 hectares of land for Yoga Guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Trust in the Bodoland. Bodos are now part of the Sonowal government. It will be a litmus test for Sonowal not to offend Ramdev and at the same time keep Ulfa and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) in check.The Ulfa faction, which is opposed to dialogue and also the KMSS has gone hammer and tongs on the land allotment.

The Ulfa chairman, Dr Abhijit Asom senses an ulterior motive in Ramdev, who has bagged such a large tract of land for his Trust. ‘We are not against yogic exercise, which leads to good health. A Muslim does not need any specific location to offer his prayer. Similarly, there is no need for any specific location for practicing Indian yoga,’ opined Dr Asom. The Yoga Guru actually wants to make money from the land by expanding his Ayurvedic medicine business to Assam, he added.

The KMSS , which has been opposing the land transfer policy through mass movements came down heavily on the move of BTC, a sixth scheduled area under the constitution, to allot land to the Patanjali Trust. Akhil Gogoi of KMSS has summed up the scenario thus: ‘Ramdev wants to set set up a diary in the allotted land. Out of 3,800 hectares, only 400 heactares are without any habitation. And the rest is occupied. We will continue protesting against the allotment.’ Going by the mood of the KMSS and Ulfa, it can be said that the land allotment issue will be the first major political test and may be a ‘headache’ for the newly-installed BJP government in Assam.

Don Bosco-educated Sonowal has not taken along Muslims as evident from lack of representation in the cabinet. BJP’s lone Muslim MLA Aminul Haque Laskar from Sonai was also ignored. Muslims have voted for BJP in significant numbers in Western Assam and Barak valley. Can the Muslims go by the Chief Minister Sonowal’s assertion that all sections of the society will be treated equally? Is this equal treatment?

The BJP and Chief Minister Sonowal will be under national and international media scrutiny as to how they conduct themselves after tasting power for the first time in a state that borders Bangladesh? How are the minorities treated will be keenly watched? Development will take place if there is peace and harmony. There is no doubt that funds from Centre will flow to Assam in the coming months. Let the journey to development begin in all earnest. People are the masters in a democracy. Five years will pass in no time. The Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the BJP will have to answer for their deeds and misdeeds. People who give power also make the politicians bite dust, if their expectations are not met. The common man only asks for a change in life for the better! Change is the only constant in life.

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Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui's picture

Dr Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui is a senior journalist and political analyst based in the Gulf. He was mentored by his ex-boss and eminent journalist M. J Akbar during his stint in The Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad. He is widely read as a columnist for many newspapers in Asia, Africa and Europe.

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