Assam Assembly Polls: When It Comes to Voting, CAA May Not Matter

Ground Report: Is CAA still an issue on the mind of voters in Assam? The Quint travelled across Assam to find out.

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Camera: Tridip K Mandal
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

‘‘Like-minded political parties have buried their ideological differences and have come together because we are all opposed to the CAA. We want to protect the Assamese culture and the Assam Accord.’’
Gaurav Gogoi, Leader, Congress
Guarav Gogoi in an election rally in Bihupuria, Assam.
Guarav Gogoi in an election rally in Bihupuria, Assam.
(Photo: Tridip K Mandal)

This is what the Congress leader and the architect of the grand alliance, the ‘Mahajot’ in Assam, told us at an election rally in Bihupuria. One of the five guarantees that Congress is promising in these elections is the scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

But are they relying too much on an issue that has perhaps slipped off the minds of the voters in Assam? The Quint travelled across Assam and spoke to a cross-section of people.

At his restaurant on AT Road in Sivasagar, Jitu Gogoi is finally happy that business has picked up. He had opened the restaurant at the peak of the anti-CAA protests in Assam and just months before the lockdown. Within months he had to shut the restaurant, but things are looking up finally. He’s happy that at least he’s able to pay his nine employees.

‘‘If there is an anti-CAA strike, I may have to shut my shop. How will I pay my employees? With or without CAA, I’ll have to pay them. I can pay their salaries only if I run my shop. People say, Bangaldeshis will take over our land and culture. But we have no time to think about these things. We are more concerned about earning our livelihood.’’
Jitu Gogoi, restaurant owner
Jitu Gogoi, a restaurant owner in Sivasagar, Assam.
Jitu Gogoi, a restaurant owner in Sivasagar, Assam.
(Photo: Tridip K Mandal)

Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahom kings. The town is deeply rooted in Assamese culture and identity. The anti-CAA sentiment was very evident here after it was passed in the Parliament. But 15 months down the line, the mood seems to have frittered away.

‘‘During the anti-CAA movement, the COVID pandemic struck. So, our lives were disrupted. People lost determination. The activities around the CAA lost its relevance.’’
Kiran Kalita, Businessman

In Hojai district of Assam, 300 km from Sivasagar, Mulani Bordoloi still can’t get over the fact that she and her family was excluded from the Assam NRC. She’s an indigenous Assamese and the NRC was meant to protect her. Vehemently anti-CAA, she feels that Assam will be flooded with foreigners if it’s implemented in the state but she also says that it is not something that will decide who she will vote for.

“But the kind of agitation we saw in 2019 around the CAA...that has died down. That intensity is not there in the elections. The CAA is not that important now. Our vote is valuable. Voters will vote, keeping in mind that they should also get some benefits when the time comes.”
Mulani Bordoloi, Homemaker
Mulani Bordoloi and her family didn’t make it to the Assam NRC.
Mulani Bordoloi and her family didn’t make it to the Assam NRC.
(Photo: Tridip K Mandal)

The BJP has left the CAA out of the Assam manifesto, while the Congress and the grand alliance have pinned their hopes on the anti-CAA sentiment to swing the votes in their favour. On 2 May, we’ll know who has sensed the mood of the voters correctly.

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