In South Salmara, Ajmal’s Imagined Hindu Threat Proved Costly

Lack of development and a communal agenda led to Badruddin Ajmal’s drubbing in South Salmara, writes Anuraag Baruah.

4 min read
Lack of development in South Salmara in Dhubri district of Assam moved voters to reject AIUDF boss Badruddin Ajmal. (Photo: Tridip K Mandal/ Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

Politics doesn’t quite work like perfume. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) boss who till recently was widely believed to be a kingmaker in Assam’s tangled politics, seems to have realised this rather late.

While he was busy building coalition castles in the air, voters from his own constituency South Salmara had something else in their mind. Ajmal lost to the Congress’ Wajed Ali Choudhury by 16, 683 votes.

South Salmara is one of the two constituencies from where Ajmal – and his party – entered Assam politics in 2006. That year, Ajmal was elected from two seats South Salmara and Jamunamukh. In 2011, Ajmal’s son Abdur Rahman, the youngest AIUDF MLA, won South Salmara once his father was elected to Parliament in 2009. City bred Abdur Rahman is a graduate of the Darul Uloom Deoband and holds an MA in Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia.


Did Not Nurture Constituency

Reports suggest that since 2011 he did little to nurture his constituency which is part of Dhubri, an overwhelmingly Muslim-majority district. Political analysts suggest that English and Hindi-speaking Ajmal junior could hardly connect with the common masses of his constituency.

Voters in South Salmara were dissatisfied because no development initiatives were undertaken. The buzz was that unless Ajmal senior contested the seat this time, it would go out of his hands. But anti-incumbency ran so strong that even Badruddin couldn’t salvage South Salmara.
A Delhi University professor familiar with the Ajmals.

Communal Card

In the run-up to the election, Ajmal instructed the Muslims to unite against the Hindus, which didn’t go down well with the people who have lived in harmony over the past several years. The 25 lakh-strong and influential Sadou Asom Gariya-Moria Desi
Jatiya Parisad (SAGMJP), an Assamese (Khilonjia) Muslim group, along with the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU) blamed Ajmal for inflammatory and communal rhetoric following 2012 disturbances in the state.

In the run-up to 2016 polls, a senior AIUDF leader from Barpeta, Sirajuddin Ajmal, had asked party workers and supporters to buy accident insurance policies paying just Rs 716, which would get them Rs 2 lakh in case of injury and Rs 5 lakh in the event of death in poll-related violence. Such brewing tension didn’t go down well with the voters, irrespective of their religious inclinations, considered such remarks as hostile.

In South Salmara and its adjoining areas, soil erosion caused by the Brahmaputra for years has displaced people and destroyed property. The roads in South Salmara are hardly motorable and little has been done in terms of economic development to bring it at par with other districts of Assam. Besides the propagation of an imagined threat from Hindus, the grinding poverty and lack of basic amenities in South Salmara drove the voters to the Congress’ Wajed Ali Choudhury.

In South Salmara and its adjoining areas, soil erosion caused by the Brahmaputra for years has displaced people and destroyed property. (Photo: Tridip K Mandal/ <b>The Quint</b>)
In South Salmara and its adjoining areas, soil erosion caused by the Brahmaputra for years has displaced people and destroyed property. (Photo: Tridip K Mandal/ The Quint)

Tyrannical Leader

Many within the AIUDF confided that they are peeved by Badruddin’s tyrannical leadership, alleging that he treats the party like a mere unit of his group companies. In a joint press conference on March 20, rebel AIUDF MLAs claimed that weak candidates were being given party tickets in exchange for huge sums of money and to polarise voters in favour of the BJP.

Ajmal’s objective was not to win, but to polarise votes. He did not want to get more than seven-eight seats and restrict the Congress to less than 30. He wanted the BJP to form the government in the state so he could continue to get the Centre’s patronage and safeguard his businesses.
Rupohihat AIUDF MLA Jahan Uddin.

Why Badruddin Ajmal Lost

  • Attempts to polarise voters in south Salmara constituency backfired for Badruddin Ajmal.
  • Voters rejected the insurance offer as well which was intended to ignite religious passion.
  • An imaginary threat from Hindus coupled with lack of basic amenities led to the  voters turning away from the AIUDF.
  • Dictatorial attitude led to Ajmal’s isolation by his own party members.
  • Ambiguous signals of forming an alliance with BJP, Congress further added to party’s woes.

Ajmal’s Desperation

Together with the general air of suspicion that hung over South Salrmara, sources said, Badruddin’s tyrannical attitude led to a general boycott of him within the party. To top all this, Ajmal’s indecisiveness and desperation during campaigning, marked by his overtures to the Congress and even the BJP, only made matters worse for him.

Besides, the AIUDF had formed a pre-poll grand alliance with the RJD and the JD (U), which failed to make any significant impact across the state. Badruddin claimed that he had been invited by JD (U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to be a part of the putative grand alliance, especially before UP goes to the polls next year.

But with the battering that the AIUDF received this time in Assam, all eyes would be on Badruddin Ajmal – whether the kingmaker would be able to redeem himself at the national level.

(The writer is a Guwahati-based freelance journalist)

Also read:

When Assam’s Indigenous Muslims Threw in Their Lot With the BJP

Exclusive: Cabinet Portfolio Names for BJP-led Govt in Assam

Assam Elections – “I Am a Muslim and I Am Not a Bangladeshi”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!