In Lakhimpur, what’s Left is Right

first_imgCPI(M) candidate Amiya Kumar Handique, 65, received only 2.05% of the votes in the 2016 by-election to the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency. Pradan Baruah of the BJP won the bypoll after Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had vacated the seat.The CPI(M) has fielded Mr. Handique again, hoping the Leftist past of the constituency — its eastern half in particular — would catch up with the Rightist present. This half comprising Dhemaji district is almost always the worst hit by annual floods in Assam.Former ULFA bastionThe rest of the constituency is divided among Lakhimpur district, “island” district Majuli, and a part of Tinsukia district that houses Jerai Chokolibhoria, the village of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom’s military chief Paresh Baruah as well as the outfit’s general secretary Anup Chetia.Much of the areas under Lakhimpur constituency sustained the Maoism-inspired ULFA for a long time. The constituency was also responsible for its slide, beginning with the killing of rural development activist Sanjoy Ghose in Majuli in July 1997. The outfit still enjoyed local support until it set off a bomb in Dhemaji town and killed 13 people, including 10 schoolchildren, during the Independence Day function in 2004.The initial resistance to the ULFA, though, was from the United Reservation Movement Council of Assam in the late 1980s. Backed by the CPI(ML), it was led by Ranoj Pegu, a doctor who later formed the Ganashakti party before becoming a BJP legislator two years ago.Several other leaders with a communist past joined the BJP over the last three years.“Communication problems and farm losses due to floods were the main reasons why communism flourished in these parts,” said Manoj Pegu, a tea planter whose shopping complex in Dhemaji town is named after his son Lenin.The BJP has been showcasing two bridges — the 9.76 km Dhola-Sadiya, India’s longest, and the 4.94 km Bogibeel, India’s longest rail-road bridge — completed during “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure” as an example of connecting remote, backward parts of the constituency to the country’s development grid. The two bridges are located within the constituency.Claims, counter-claims“Much of these projects were completed during the Congress tenure,” Anil Borgohain, Lakhimpur’s Congress candidate said, accusing the BJP and its right-wing affiliates of intimidating and attacking him and party workers during the campaign that ended on Tuesday.The BJP’s sitting MP is confident of retaining his seat because of the party’s focus on improved communication. “We have also been addressing the issue of floods,” said Mr. Pradan Baruah.But at Dighiri Chapori, barely 10 km east of Dhemaji town, the likes of 49-year-old farmer Jarman Doley know it would take a lot more than promises to undo the damage done by the Jiadhol, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. Sand deposited by the river over the years has buried paddy fields and houses in six villages in the area. The sand-induced barrenness led to Dighiri Chapori and several other patches in the district.“About 100 of some 240 families have built new chang-ghars (houses on stilts) that are 20-25 ft above the original level. This happened in the last three years. The BJP has promised the rest of us more houses as well as roads,” he said.The other candidates — 11 apart from the BJP’s — too have assured a solution to their perennial problem. They include Hem Kanta Miri of Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) and Arup Kalita of CPI, underlining the Left Front’s bid to regain lost ground.last_img read more