One cannot understand why certain people vote for certain policies without knowing who they are. It is imperative to look at the demographics of both West Bengal and Assam before diving into BJP’s manifesto for them.
Where West Bengal has 294 seats in the State Legislative Assembly elections, Assam makes up for 126 seats. West Bengal’s women’s voter turnout is higher than that of men’s; Assam’s women voters participation is staggeringly greater than 1962 as compared to 2014 where it showed a 113% growth, however men’s turnout is still higher than women’s. Today, the Government in Assam is led by BJP, and the one in West Bengal is led by Trinamul Congress, with woman Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at its helm.
Assam has 61.47% Hindus, and 34.22% Muslims according to the 2011 survey; West Bengal shows about 70.54% of Hindus and 27.01% Muslims. It can be deduced that that West Bengal has a more dominant Hindu population.
Considering these demographics, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that West Bengal would take centre stage in the campaigning procedure of BJP because of the need to take over a strongly influential Trinamool Congress Government in order to get a majority. BJP’s manifesto for West Bengal focuses on employment, CAA, and women related policies.
BJP’s stand for West Bengal:
Sonar Bangla Sonkolpo Potro 2021 promises women free education from PG to KG, free public transportation rides, pension for widows, and a conditional cash transfer to school going girls in specific grades. The current Government’s preexisting conditional cash transfer scheme “Kanyashree Scheme” has already been highly influential before.
Besides women, BJP’s manifesto also highly focuses on implementing CAA, a highly controversial act which will be of great significance to Mathuas, Hindu refugees in West Bengal from Bangladesh, who will be responsible for at least 40 seats,. The party has also promised to include Hindu communities like Mahishasur and Tili in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category. They also promised to establish specific developmental boards for the Hindu Schedules Tribe communities like Mundas, Oraons, and Bhumijs, and give funding for other Hindu communities like Rajbangshis, Bauris, and Bagdis.
Along with CAA, the refugee families are also promised a sum of Rs. 10,000 for the following five years. BJP further pushed an agenda sympathetic to these refugees with their “Ayushman Bharat” plan which focuses on zero infiltration and promises on fencing of the border. BJP further made a promise to West Bengal that citizens will not have to go to court to get permission to organise a Durja Pooja or a Saraswati Pooja, along with offering Rs. 3,000 as an honorarium to Hindu priests.
BJP also included several economic promises for fishermen, farmers, sharecroppers, and subsidised meals at the cost of Rs. 5 that will be served thrice a day, and even to build infrastructure and provide employment. Culturally, too, BJP has made promises about programs that will propel West Bengal to become the cultural capital of India, and promote the Bengali language.
The party also promised to launch anti corruption campaign in the State, with specific focus on setting up Task Forces to curb crimes like communal violence, corruption, arms dealing, etc.
BJP’s stand for Assam:
Assam’s manifesto announced by BJP President JP Nadda had ten main commitments. It involves correction of the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and had no mention of the implementation of CAA, unlike West Bengal’s manifesto, considering that Assam highly opposed the act. The party, in their manifesto, went on to elaborate how the State of Assam would be protected from infiltrators after the updated NRC. The party also promised technology in order to stop infiltration from the Bangladesh border.
Other commitments touched on Assam floods and ways to prevent them, and promised to offer land deed to all landless Indian citizens of the State. It also focuses on making the state self-sufficient, employment, quality education, and cycles for girl children after class VIII.
Assam’s BJP manifesto also intends to end “love jihad” and “land jihad”. Along with this, bearing in mind that Assam is arguably one of the most ethnically divided states of India, BJP has promised a special socio-economic and caste census for the identification of various indigenous Muslim communities like Goria, Moria, etc., and also to grant the status of Schedules Tribe to six other communities like Tea Tribes and Moran.
CAA has been argued to be highly communal in nature as it seeks to include all Non-Muslim refugees into the NRC. While Assam’s manifesto did not address CAA, keeping in mind the backlash they received and one-third of its population being Muslim, West Bengal’s manifesto focused on CAA extensively.
While both manifestos highlighted promises related to keeping the state safe from outside forces, BJP’s West Bengal manifesto focused on its more than 70% Hindu population and giving Hindu communities special compensations and statuses; Assam’s manifesto focused on different ethnic groups and Muslim indigenous communities reflecting their demographics as well. However, it is also important to realise that BJP not broaching the CAA does not mean it has any change in its policies for the implementation of the same.
Both manifestos are intricately defined according to demographics and existing Governments, where West Bengal, not already having a BJP majority, became a forefront for campaigning especially with regards to women and the Hindu population, and Assam, having a BJP majority, remained relatively quieter and mostly kept CAA out of its manifesto and focused on all groups present in Assam. It’s important to know what is important to people, in order for them to root for a party, and BJP’s manifesto, carefully curated, intends to engage its voters according to who they are.
Osho Dubey -Writer Bharat Bhagya Vidhata