Home Adivasis In Hailakandi, a father-son duo might hold edge over their rivals

In Hailakandi, a father-son duo might hold edge over their rivals

By Amit Kumar, Twocircles.net

Hailakandi: The district of Hailakandi, Assam, has been a hotspot of political activity in the past few weeks, and understandably so. The three constituencies in this area—Hailakandi, Katlicherra and Algapur—are up for polling in the first phase of elections on April4, and given that currently, the three sitting MLAs are from the Indian National Congress, the opposition parties are trying their level best to break into this area.

While Indian National Congress’ Gautam Roy is the MLA from Katlicherra, his wife Mandira Roy represents Algapur and Abdul Muhib Mazumder represents Hailakandi. In what is proving to be a common theme across Assam, the Congress and its trust in dynastic politics sees Gautam Roy’s son Rahul Roy contesting from the Algapur seat this time, in place of his mother. However, unlike Dima Hasao, where GD Langthasa has been replaced by his son Nirmal Langthasa who is contesting for the first time, the case with Rahul Roy is slightly different. He has experience in contesting elections and had represented the area between 2006 and 2011. In 2011, however, he lost to Assam Gana Parishad’s Sahidul Islam Choudhury, but after Choudhury’s death in2013, Mandira Roy won the bypolls in 2013.

photos forHailakandi story

Rahul Roy is banking on what he called the “development model” to come back to power. On what was to be the last rally before the area went to polls on April 4, Roy stressed on the work done by his mother, and by him before that, and assured the people that should he come to power, he will ensure that the area’s development continues. Like all Congress leaders, he too did not miss a chance to take potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and said that the BJP’s politics of communalism would find no takers in this area. To the credit of the Roys, however, given the general lack of roads in the Barak Valley, Algapur and Hailakandi in general presented a welcome change. It is not as if the roads are perfect, but compared to the situation in the neighbouring district of Karimganj, it is a huge improvement.

The condition in Hailakandi is different, however. Here, the BJP candidate Soumyajit Dutta Choudhury has been gaining momentum and enjoys a huge support among the locals. “He seems to be a hard-working man and given how inefficient the Congress has been, I would like to vote for the BJP because they too deserve a chance,” Shib Sunder Das, a pan seller, told Twocircles.net. Unlike Algapur, the town of Hailakandi has seen progress stalled in some ways, with no new avenues of employment coming up in the last few years. “Unlike Algapur, we are not into farming. This is a town and we need jobs, but we are not seeing any and as such, the local youth has to either go to Silchar or Guwahati to work, or remain unemployed,” said Abdul Karim, a 24 year old resident of Hailakandi. Congress’ chances have not been helped by the fact that its candidate, Anam Uddin Laskar, was involved in a spat with a traffic cop last year and was accused of attacking the cop, which greatly damaged his reputation.

The issue of unemployment, in fact, is one of the biggest issues that can dent Congress’ chances in the elections across the state. From 1 lakh unemployed youth in 2001, the state now has over 26 lakh unemployed youth, and for this section, a vote for Congress means that the status quo is unlikely to change, and the Congress party members are well aware of this. “Yes, there is a strong resentment against the Congress among the youth,” conceded a senior member of the Congress state unit of Hailakandi, “but we are working towards addressing the issue,” he added without getting into the details of how exactly do they plan to do so.

photos forHailakandi story

More importantly, the challenge to both the Congress and BJP will come from AIUDF, although residents are giving a much lesser chance to Badruddin Ajmal’s party in this area. The AIUDF candidate from Hailakandi, Anwar Uddin Laskar, does not enjoy a huge base in this area and will not be helped by the fact that the Muslim vote will be split among the AIUDF, Congress and 11 other Muslim candidates. “Muslims would be much better off voting for the Congress than the AIUDF since the Congress has a much higher chance of winning,” explained Mir Uddin Barbhuiya, a senior citizen of Hailakandi who retired as a school teacher about 10 years ago.

The only seat among the three which the Congress is almost sure of winning is the Katlicherra constituency, but that is understandable given that Gautam Roy has been representing the area for over 30 years. In fact, his voters credit him with bringing peace to the area and building bridges and colleges and given that none of his rivals have the same presence in the area, he is likely to sail through. The same cannot be said for his son, however.