Chanakya cracks the whip - Can Amit Shah's last hour blitzkrieg save the crucial Silchar seat for the BJP?
Silchar Vidhansabha constituency is arguably the most intensely contested seat in the entire Barak Valley. In terms of electoral significance and repercussions, Silchar is truly hosting the battle royale of our valley. What could have been an easy cakewalk for the incumbent BJP, has turned into their most testing challenge in the entire valley. Any attempt to understand the significance of the Silchar Vidhansabha seat must involve three keyframes of references –
1) Dilip Paul’s full-blown rebellion
In 2014 by-elections, Dilip Kumar Paul had wrested the Silchar seat from the Congress by a massive margin of 37,441votes. In the 2016 State Elections, Dilip Paul stormed back to power with a humongous 94,787 votes. In terms of vote share, Dilip Paul managed to break the commonly accepted ceiling of 60% vote share. With a staggering 60.53% vote share, Dilip Paul was successful in firmly attesting to the fact that there is more to his candidature than the mere brand value of the BJP party. In any simplistic reduction, one should have concluded that Dilip Paul has a considerable personal pull and groundswell in his favour. Dilip Paul’s demeanor and lifestyle resemble the Vajpayee-an template of BJP leaders- swing bags, cotton shirts, and a clean image -and there is the source of his foothold in Silchar. In politics, perception is the reality. While facts may be entirely different from the perception, Dilip Paul’s image has a significant electoral value.
However, for reasons best known to the BJP state leadership, Dilip Paul was denied the ticket to the Silchar seat. Relying on his personal vote bank and infuriated by the treatment meted out to him, Dilip Paul did the unthinkable.
“What did I do to deserve such treatment? “- was how Dilip Paul rammed in his election juggernaut to Silchar’s battle royale.
The veteran BJP leader, lovingly referred to as Pitamah of the regional politics of North East, Kabindra Purkayastha, came on record to express his deep anguish with the state of affairs in the BJP. But he appeared to have been placated by the efforts of Himanta Biswa Sharma and the local leadership. “He is my guardian, my guide. I will never say anything on what Kabindra Jethu has said “- said a humbled Dr. Rajdeep Roy. Such tokens of genuine reverence and respect to the stature of Kabindra Purkayastha appeared to have soothed the anguished veteran of BJP. To BJP’s relief, Kanad Purkayastha, son of Kabindra Purkayastha and one of the front runners to the BJP ticket, has been campaigning for BJP’s victory with his full might. ” Kabindra Babu is a BJP man in flesh and bones. To a great person like him, party will always be higher than the individual “- said Aminul Haque Laskar, in a recent interview with Barak Bulletin.
Similarly, Dilip Paul was expected to cave into the argument of ‘larger cause’. At the last moment hunch to placate Dilip Paul, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma flew in from Guwahati and publicly said – “I am requesting Mr. Dilip Paul to remember the larger cause of the party. You have been and you will always be a proud asset of the party. BJP will be honoured if you accompany Dipayan Chakraborty to his nomination.”
Dilip Paul’s offense only got fiercer from here on. Coupled with the allegations of a conspiracy by local leadership, he came out with some serious allegations of ‘Syndicate Raj’, narcotics trade, and embezzlement against the local leadership of BJP. It became increasingly clear that Dilip Paul was not bowing out. “It is a Dharma Yudh. I am here to fight with the Kauravas. Krishna is with me. Let the voters decide my fate,”- thus continued Dilip Paul’s no holds barred stand against his own party.
With no hope of reconciliation, BJP had to shun Dilip Paul from the party. With Rajdeep Roy, Member of Parliament and the General Secretary of the State BJP, signing his removal letter, the battle lines were drawn in Silchar. Dilip Paul’s demeanor, transparent track record, the argument of betrayal by the local leadership, the allegiance of many party cadres, allegations against local leadership, and firm grip over certain loyal voters are the stepping stones to Dilip Paul’s hope of victory in the election of his lifetime. For Dilip Paul, this election will either usher in an outstanding victory or inevitable oblivion.
2) Can Tamal Banik be the Phoenix of the Congress?
Since the 2019 parliamentary elections, Congress has been fast receding into political irrelevance in Silchar. The ground network of Congress workers was in absolute shambles. Sushmita Dev, former Parliamentarian and President of All India Mahila Congress, a part of the legacy of Congress’ stalwart leader Late Santosh Mohan Dev, was the last surviving line of defense against a complete obliteration of Congress from Silchar. With Tamal Banik’s candidature, fortunes have turned for Congress.
Tamal Banik’s campaign is hinged on his branding of –
a) Track record as the Silchar Municipality Board Chairman
b) Deep roots to the students’ politics of Silchar.
c) Support of a considerable section of the cultural and intellectual world within Silchar.
d) Critique of BJP’s failures.
e) Issue-centric campaigning.
If Congress manages to win this seat, it will have huge repercussions in the 2024 General Elections. With Congress conceding the entire Hailakandi district and South Karimganj to AIUDF, a victory in Silchar will have the potential to reignite Congress’ flickering flame in Barak Valley. It remains to be seen whether Tamal Banik pulls off a stunner for the Congress party.
3) Can BJP’s election machine survive the ‘Agnipariksha’?
With an almost vertical split amongst the cadres, Congress’ impressive onslaught, Dilip Paul’s unrelenting offensive against the local leadership, BJP has been pushed to the wall in Silchar. What was expected to be a walk in the park has been turned into a test of ‘fire and blood’. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi limiting himself to a prime ministerial speech, Yogi Aadityanath failing to generate the crowd BJP had expected, local leadership failing to contain the implosion within the BJP, the most fierce General of BJP’s election army had to be summoned. Amit Shah, Honourable Home Minister of Union of India, has been one of the prime architects of the BJP’s incredible electoral success over the years.
“Vijay Sankalp ki Mutthi bichiye aur Prachanda Awaz Se Boliye Bharat Mata Ki Jay “- thus began Amit Shah’s blitzkrieg at Silchar.
“Can Badaruddin Ajmal be the face of the culture of Assam ?”, “Do you want infiltrators to occupy your land?”, “Will you strengthen the hands of Modiji by voting for BJP?”, “Do you want a terrorism-free Assam?, “Do you want to protect your culture and heritage?”- thus was Amit Shah’s final showdown to save the Silchar seat.
In all honesty, one could feel the palpable frenzy in the crowd. In his ultimate finishing move, he waved his hand and asked – “Yaha ka prattyashi, saamne aye bhai!”
Holding Dipayan Chakraborty’s hand, he appealed to the voters of Silchar – “I am guaranteeing you that he will become a big leader in 20 years. He has struggled a lot to stand where he is standing. The party has given the ticket to the most suitable candidate. Trust him with your vote and he will serve you.”
One can safely assume that BJP has infused all its firepower to retain the Silchar seat. If BJP loses the Silchar seat, the local leadership will find it almost impossible to shy away from the responsibility of this Herculean disaster. Whether Amit Shah’s last hour cameo turns the tide in BJP’s favour is difficult to answer. However, it is indubitable that BJP is still very much in the fray for winning the most coveted seat of Silchar.
Silchar, the land of Bhasha Shaheeds, the soul of Barak Valley, influences the political whirlwinds of the entire valley. Silchar’s three-cornered battle royale will be an election worth remembering for decades to come.