Bus yatras will show that Congress stands with people of Assam: Sushmita

With the planned bus yatras ahead of the Assembly polls in Assam, the Congress intends to connect with the people in the remotest parts directly to give them a sense that the party stands with them to save the northeastern state from the policies of the BJP.

Speaking to IANS, senior Congress leader Sushmita Dev, who will be leading the ‘Axom Basaon Ahok’ bus yatra in the Barak Valley of the state, said, “We have split Assam into four groups — upper Assam, lower Assam, middle Assam and Barak Valley. There are four people who will lead the yatras in every region.”

According to Dev, Pradyut Bordoloi, chairperson of the party’s campaign committee, will begin his bus yatra on February 12 from Bordua Satra, the birthplace of Srimant Sankardev that falls under the Batadraba Assembly constituency in Nagaon district, while Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Debabrata Saikia will kick off his bus yatra on February 12 after paying homage to Piyali Phukan at his memorial in Sivasagar city.

Congress MP from Kaliabor, Gaurav Gogoi, will begin his yatra from Guwahati, while Dev will start her bus yatra from Silchar enroute the Barak Valley.

Dev said that the idea behind the bus yatra is to cover two constituencies in a day, and not hold massive rallies.

“Through these bus yatras, we will meet people from different sections of the society and discuss their issues and problems. It will not be a one-way dialouge, as people will be allowed to speak. We will take notes of the every issue raised by the people, which will be later included in the party’s manifesto,” she said.

Dev also said that the bus yatra will continue for 10-15 days, and the big rallies will keep on happening in the middle. “The idea is to go among the people,” she said.

Dev, who is also the chief of the Mahila Congress, further said, “Our ground assessment and surveys tell us that there is a massive groundswell of anger against the ruling BJP in Assam. While the undemocratic government of the BJP may not let this resentment come to the fore by muzzling the voices and intimidating the critics, the Axom Basaon Ahok shall give the people a platform to speak up and make the Congress a vehicle for their aspirations. And the Congress needs to engage with the people so that there is a greater connect when it comes to their problems.”

Lamenting at the ruling BJP, she said that “the culture of Assam is being challenged” and there is a division being created between the Bengalis and the Assamese people because of the BJP’s policies, not to mention the rising unemployment in the state.

When asked who suggested to hold the bus yatras to connect with the people, the Congress leader said, “We don’t just want to hold big rallies. Even Rahul Gandhi was very clear that we always gather 50,000 people in the rallies, give speeches and then come back. He stressed on holding micro interactive sessions which will go deeper.”

Dev added that the outreach committees created by the party was actually the idea of Rahul Gandhi.

“Rahul Gandhi suggested that you cannot engage with the people in big rallies. While that is also necessary, the state leaders should not expect people to come to them in the big rallies. That is the reason why he clubbed the manifesto and the outreach committees together,” she said.

To a question if the Congress will miss the presence of three-time former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who passed away in November last year, Dev said, “If you look at our proposed bus yatras, Tarun Gogoi also features in the campaign. Apart from that, people like Pradyut Bordoloi, Gaurav Gogoi, myself, Ripun Bora and several senior leaders will be there.”

She said that the Congress is taking forward the 15 years of peace, unity and progress ushered in Assam under the leadership of Gogoi.

“The 15-year rule may not have been perfect, but somehow it was very inclusive. Tarun Gogoi stood for something. What his government did in 15 years is there for everyone to see,” she said.

Dev also dispelled the rumours that the Congress is a divided house and said, “There was a bad narrative that the Congress is a divided house, which has been cleared today as all the senior leaders of the party were on the stage to announced the bus yatras.”

Stressing that the Congress’ priority is to protect the future of Assam, she said, “The only way to save the future of Assam is people’s participation. We want to connect with the people and we have to do this together for the sake of the future of Assam and to repair the damage caused in the last five years.”

Commenting on the recent defections from the party, Dev said, “Every political leader goes through a phase of ups and downs in their political careers. One may feel that that they are going down, but to jump to the other side is political opportunism.”

She said that politics is all about standing by one’s ideology, and to jump to another party for more opportunity is nothing but political opportunism.

Dev also said that senior Congress leader Jitendra Singh has given a common vision to the party leaders and it is time to defeat the BJP regime which is just not working for the betterment of Assam and its people. “And to conquer the northeast, we have to win Assam back,” she said.

The elections for the 126-seat Assam Assembly are likely to take place in April-May this year. the Election Commission of India is yet to announce the poll schedule.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)