AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal
Guwahati: Disappointed at Congress's "betrayal" by fielding candidates against his party nominees, AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal has claimed that the Muslim leadership in the Assam unit of the grand old party has thwarted a possible alliance with the AIUDF.
With the Congress now contesting from Karimganj, Barpeta and Dhubri Lok Sabha constituencies, there is a "strong possibility" of a division of anti-BJP votes in these seats, Ajmal told PTI in an interview.
On the reason behind the Congress action, he said, the Muslim leaders of the party's state unit thought their future would "be finished" if an understanding was reached.
The AIUDF will contest from Dhubri, Barpeta and Karimganj, from where it has three sitting MPs, sharply lower from the 10 candidates it had put up in the 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
The Congress is fighting from all the constituencies this time.
Ajmal, a two-time Lok Sabha MP from Dhubri and a perfume baron, alleged that the "only intention" of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) was to "finish off" the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which has been with the UPA for the last 10 years and the 'Mahagathbandhan' in 2019.
"The sole motto of the Congress is to finish the AIUDF. The Muslim leadership of the Congress did not want the AIUDF and the Congress to get united at all. If that happened, their political future would have been finished," the former MLA said.
Admitting that anti-BJP votes were likely to get divided, the AIUDF chief sounded confident that his party would be able to retain the three seats in the 2019 elections, but "may be with smaller margins".
"If the BJP is our number one enemy, then the Congress is number two. We have sacrificed our seats for secularism. We do not have any intention to help the Congress. We took a decision for the Assamese language, culture, identity and overall scenario.
"We wanted the Congress also to sacrifice like us by not putting up candidates in the three seats. In that way, we would have won the three, Congress seven and BJP... one or two seats. We were determined not to give a single seat to the BJP," Ajmal said.
Stating that he has been seeking time from Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the last one month to have a discussion about the alliance, he regretted that his request went unheeded, even as the AIUDF was with the UPA for the last 10 years.
The Congress could have informed him in a "friendly" manner that the alliance was not possible, the AIUDF leader said.
"They have formed alliance with the smallest of the small parties like Hemant Soren's JMM in Jharkhand for two seats... I wanted the alliance with the Congress in Assam.
Even today, I want it, but Assam Congress is not in favour of us. They spoiled the entire environment by speaking unwanted things," he said.
Asked about the reason for APCC's "rigidity" towards an alliance, Ajmal said, "The Congress and the AIUDF have a secular vote base. Besides, the minority votes are also shared by both. My issue is that the Congress should announce whether the BJP is their bigger enemy or the AIUDF. Their entire strength and campaign are not against the BJP."
It is because of this attitude, that the Congress, even now, has remained largely a Muslim-based party in Assam with 15 out of its 25 MLAs belonging to the minority community, the 63-year-old parliamentarian said.
"Even in the recent Panchayat results, they were zero in Hindu areas, and hero in Muslim areas. They have to decide against whom are they fighting?" he asked.
On whether the AIUDF's criticism of sympathy towards Bengali-speaking Muslims is to be blamed for the alienation from the Congress, Ajmal shot back, saying the country's oldest party had ruled India for 70 years with the help of the minority community.
"The Congress has fooled and blackmailed them (Muslims) to get votes... All big leaders and ministers were made by Muslim people. Now, after the AIUDF came into the picture, their (Congress) vote bank is in danger and that is why they have started political enmity," he added.
To highlight the secular character of the AIUDF, Ajmal pointed out that the party has fought Assembly elections twice and each time, it had put up 73 candidates, of whom 32-33 were non-Muslims.
He stressed that the Bengali-speaking Muslims are not Bangladeshis and the update work of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has proved that.
The AIUDF chief claimed that the Congress is "damaging" the AIUDF more than the BJP, as the "Congress wants to finish us since we were born, while the saffron party wants us to be alive as it is beneficial for them".
Talking about the 'mahagathbandhan', Ajmal said the AIUDF is a part of the grand alliance and if the party is able to win the three seats from Assam, it will be of big support in forming an anti-BJP secular government at the Centre.
On the party's prospects in 2019 polls, the AIUDF chief said, "The way BJP's popularity is decreasing across India, they (Narendra Modi and Amit Shah) should have resigned after the last assembly polls (in five states in 2018)."
The writing on the wall is "clear" that both Modi and Shah will have to resign from their respective posts after the election results are out on May 23, he claimed.
Ajmal alleged that the Modi government is running the show only with the "help of marketing", and has not completed a "single new project" of its own.
The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue is the only project started by Modi and completed by him, he said.
The MP claimed that thousands of projects announced by Modi are "just hoax", and if the prime minister listens to his own speeches, he will wonder as to when had he announced a slew of projects.
"Manmohan Singh had said in an interview given during the last few days of his tenure that he did not take a single day off from duty when he was the PM. But, when did Modi sit in office? His chair has not accepted him yet. He has been roaming around. Modi should have been the foreign minister or tourism minister," Ajmal said.
The Assam MP also reiterated the AIUDF's opposition to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which the BJP has promised to pass in its manifesto.
He said the bill will destroy Assam's culture, history and demography.
"In the interest of Assam, we are opposed to the bill and will continue to do so. I think the BJP has not understoodthat the issue has in fact damaged them," he added.