'In Assam we have lost 2,358 sq km to erosion by the Brahmaputra river! Do you know how much area is 2,358 sq km is? This is four times the size of Bombay. But who is concerned?'
'Didn't the BJP say that as soon as we come to power the Bangladeshis will have to pack their bags? Go to Google and search for 'Modi + Bangladeshi' and see exactly the statement he made... I am asking what has happened to it.'
Prodyut Bora resigned as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party's national executive member. Bora, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, had contested the election from Assam, but lost.
Bora explains to Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com the reasons why he decided to quit the BJP.
Now that the BJP seems to be on an upswing in Assam -- the party has won 39 out of 74 own committees and municipal boards -- you resigned from the party. You must have had some very serious reasons to resign at such a time from the BJP whose part you have been for 11 years now...
What went wrong?
If I had left at a time when things were not so good, people would have said I was deserting a sinking ship.
I would have resigned almost a month ago, but then I felt bad for the lower level party functionaries who were contesting the municipal elections.
Had I quit, say just a week before the elections, the election (results) might have been impacted.
You are saying people could have voted against the BJP had you resigned on the eve of local elections?
Yeah. I mean, possibly. I don't know how much of a difference my resignation could have made, but let's assume that it would have made a small difference. The point is the lower level functionaries are honest. It is the top leadership in the Assam BJP who are questionable.
I wanted the elections to get over. I did not want the local elections to be hurt.
Whether the BJP is on an upswing or downswing is immaterial. I did not want my resignation to impact (the party's prospects) in any way.
Having said that, if you notice the BJP's vote share in the urban areas in these elections have actually gone down compared to what the party polled in the Lok Sabha elections.
What are your grouses against the state BJP and the party at the national level?
If you read my letter, what does the first sentence of my letter say? It says the reason behind my resignation is not because of a specific incident, but rather because of the general drift in the party and the direction in which the party was moving on issues of great national importance.
Today, for example, on the borders, our soldiers die defending every single inch of land, be it Siachen or Kashmir or wherever. But in Assam we have lost 2,358 sq km to erosion by the Brahmaputra river! Now, who is concerned about this (erosion)?
Do you know how much area is 2,358 sq km is? This is four times the size of Bombay. (But) who is concerned?
In Assam our main issue is of illegal migration. We promised the people of Assam that if the BJP comes to power (at the Centre) these guys will have to pack their bags. I am asking what has happened to it (these poll promises made to the people of the state).
What has happened? What is the ground reality about Bangladeshi migrants in Assam?
I became the general secretary of the BJP in Assam after my tenure as the national convener of the IT cell. I have a hands on experience about (these things).
Could you tell us about the ground reality about Bangladeshi migrants in Assam? Has their number increased/decreased/or hit a plateau?
Today, the answer is nobody knows much about these infiltrators or migrants. We only know that the presence of Bangladeshis on Assam's soil is a huge problem. But we do not know the exact quantum of this problem.
Unless there is a mechanism to identify illegal migrants, how would one come to know? There are migrants and there are lakhs of them. That is exactly what the government was supposed to do, right?
Are you familiar with something called the Assam Accord?
There was this big students' movement in Assam in the early '80s, and when Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister he signed three major accords with Mizoram, Punjab, and Assam, which came to be known as the Assam Accord.
As per the Assam Accord, all illegal migrants from Bangladesh -- and illegal migrants being defined as people who came from Bangladesh to Assam after March 18, 1971 -- will be detected and their names deleted from the voters' list and deported back to their countries.
Till today, that hasn't happened.
Of course, I don't trust the Congress to do it because they were never interested in doing this. This was the promise made by the BJP before the Lok Sabha polls. So, I am asking ke kya ho gaya (what happened to your promises)?
So you are saying you did not see any efforts were taken by the Modi government to detect, delete and deport these illegal migrants from Assam and so you resigned.
I haven't seen anything happening till today. It's now nine months (since the National Democratic Alliance government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office at the Centre)!
Floods in Assam come towards the middle of April. And we are practically two months away from the floods. I am asking again: 'What are you going to do about it now?'
For the last 50 years when it floods in Assam the prime minister takes a helicopter, comes back, announces a relief and rehabilitation package and flies back to Delhi. What are you going to do this time?
The government has only been in office for nine months. What could the government have done in this period?
Didn't the BJP say that as soon as we come to power the Bangladeshis will have to pack their bags? Go to Google and search for 'Modi + Bangladeshi' and see exactly the statement he made.
Will your resignation change the situation?
It may not, but shouldn't we kind of speak up just because one doesn't see anything changing materially?
Why not take it with the prime minister or the BJP president instead of resigning?
I have at various times repeated these problems in the party. It has not worked. You think I am a crazy guy to resign after working full-time 11 years for the BJP?
I am really concerned about the five issues:
- 1. erosion of land because of flooding by the Brahmaputra and scrapping of the North East Industrial and Investment Policy.
- 2. subversion of democratic traditions in the party and government.
- 3. Political corruption in the BJP Assam Pradesh Committee.
- 4. The likely entry into the BJP of Himanta Biswas Sarma, an ex-ULFA member and currently a minister in the Tarun Gogoi government.
- 5. The arrogance of state BJP President Siddhartha Bhattacharya.
Did you raise these issues directly with the prime minister or Amit Shah?
Everything doesn't have to be raised with the PM or the national president. There is a party fora and you raise it there.
I have been fighting on the (erosive effects of) floods issue in the Supreme Court since 2012 via public interest litigation. Doesn't the party know about it?
Is your resignation then an act of desperation after knowing that the BJP will not act on the issues you have been raising and fighting for?
I don't think your question is valid. The valid point is I have raised some issues and those issues have not been addressed to my satisfaction. In such a situation the honourable thing for me to do is step down.
For how long have been these issues not taken care of?
How long has this government been in power?
State BJP President Siddhartha Bhattacharya calls you a 'Facebook mercenary.'
He is entitled to say what he wishes. That is lack of grace on his part. When somebody is bidding you goodbye, you say goodbye and that's about it.
I don't know how one can be a mercenary using Facebook. I don't know exactly what he means by that. One can be a 'Facebook activist,' but what is a Facebook mercenary? What does the word mean?
Mercenaries are people who are available on hire. I am not available (on hire to the Congress).
Are you planning to join the Congress party in Assam?
He could hint at anything. How does it take away from the points I have been raising for all these years?
What's your future course of action? On what platform are you going to raise these issues?
I have been fighting for the cause of the people of Assam in the Supreme Court for the last three years.
For the other issues that I have raised the illegal migrants issue has been hanging since Rajiv Gandhi's time in 1985.
The NEIPP (North East Industrial and Investment Policy) has been scrapped because of which the entire region has lost investment opportunities worth Rs 30,000 crore (Rs 300 billion).
If you want to scrap it, scrap it. But at least come with an alternative that is better than what you have scrapped. But you have not put in place a new policy.
So, the scrapping was wrong for whatever reasons. As a result of this scrapping, so much of investment is now stuck.
Everything cannot boil down only to politics. People also matter.
Do you think the national government is playing politics with these issues in Assam?
Please do not paraphrase me. I have said what I have said in my resignation letter. I am only raising people's issues.
For us, the Assam floods are the biggest issue every single year. Again, the same charade that is played every year will play out (this year).
Did you think these issues would not be addressed and so you decided to resign?
Again, you are making a presumption. I do not know if these will be addressed or not. I don't know what the future will be.
Are you hopeful about these issues getting addressed?
This is again a rhetorical question which doesn't have an answer. If my (resignation) letter makes them do it tomorrow, then it is great.
It is great for the country, great for Assam, great for the party. But so far it has not been done.
In your resignation letter, you have also attacked the prime minister and Amit Shah. You have called their style of functioning very arrogant and centralised.
You cannot pick single words and phrases from here and there. Can you show me one sentence where this statement is there?
This is what your letter says:
'Amitji, have you cared to find out what your team thinks about you? Your highly individualised/centralised style of decision-making has ensured that many party office bearers feel highly disempowered. Moreover, in any organisation, the style of the leader is quickly copied by those below him. What I am seeing in the Party -- at least in my state -- is the flowering of junior Amit Shahs, with a tenth of your capability and ten times your arrogance'...
...And about Prime Minister Modi:
'Today the Foreign Minister barely knows that the Foreign Secretary is about to get fired; Cabinet Ministers cannot even appoint their own OSDs (Officers on Special Duty); and power is increasingly being centralised in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). This makes me wonder: Does the Cabinet System still exist in this country? I am mortified to see that no Cabinet Minister, no National Office Bearer, no Member of Parliament has demonstrated the courage to question Modi-ji on the subversion of this fine democratic tradition,'
So you are clearly saying that Amit Shah is arrogant and the prime minister has increasingly centralised decision-making.
I am not calling him (Amit Shah) arrogant yaar.
Aren't you saying that the 'Junior Amit Shahs' in Assam are ten times arrogant than the BJP president?
I am just making a kind of a comparison. I am just saying the impact that this arrogance is leading to in Assam.
Isn't the comparison as far as arrogance of junior Amit Shahs in Assam with Amit Shah's arrogance? What kind of arrogance did you see in the junior Amit Shahs of Assam?
You need more than 15 minutes for me to tell you what kind of arrogance I see in the junior Amit Shahs. Unfortunately I do not have that time right now.
What I am exactly trying to say is these leaders' inability to listen... I have described about my (state BJP) party president on the last page of my resignation letter in the fifth point that I have raised.
I have said that I have not seen anybody 'more arrogant, ill-tempered and coarse-mouthed office bearer in BJP's Assam history' than him (Assam BJP President Siddhartha Bhatacharya).
Aren't you comparing Siddhartha Bhattacharya's arrogance to Amit Shah's arrogance and also saying that the prime minister has a centralised style of functioning?
It's okay. It's fair enough.
What arrogance did you see in Amit Shah's behaviour?
Can you describe a person's humility, sweetness or arrogance? If I ask you what sweetness did you see in that (any) person (for example), can you describe that?
You must have seen some kind of arrogance in these two leaders before making a comparison of their arrogance in your resignation letter...
I don't know how to describe it. I am asking you: What smartness did you see in that person? Or what sweetness did you see in that person? Can you answer that question? Then I will learn how to answer your question.
It (Amit Shah's arrogance) is a difficult thing (to answer). I have said what I have said. It is a difficult thing to answer. I have nothing more to add on this (either Amit Shah's arrogance or the PM's centralized style of functioning).