Labelling All India United Democratic Front chief Badruddin Ajmal as the 'enemy of Assam', state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday asserted that he is an extremist in protecting Indian and the Assamese culture.
Accusing Ajmal of trying to do something alien to Assamese culture, Sarma, the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor, said he will talk about politics of identity till the Lok Sabha MP and opposition leader is in the political scene.
Ajmal, Lok Sabha member from Dhubri heads the AIUDF which has 14 MLAs mostly from the minority Muslims dominated areas of Assam at present.
The AIUDF has teamed up with the Congress and four other political parties to form a Grand Alliance against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming state polls.
"Yes, I am an extremist in protecting Indian culture and Assamese culture in this land. If anybody has given me this title, kindly convey my regards and thanks to them," Sarma told reporters when asked about the opposition branding him as the extreme of polarisation politics.
Asked if he and Ajmal are equal in politics of polarisation, the Assam finance minister claimed that while the AIUDF chief is doing something 'alien to Assam's culture', he is trying to protect Assamese culture.
"I am trying to protect Indian nationalism. There have to be two extremes. So, if there is a north pole, there will be a south pole. If Badruddin Ajmal disappears, then we will also disappear. Then we will talk about development and something else.
"But as long as Badruddin Ajmal is there, we will talk about development and politics of identity. And if that made me an extremist, I am happy about that," he said.
When asked if Ajmal is a messiah of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, the senior BJP leader declined to comment on him as an individual, but chose to give opinion on Ajmal as 'an institution or what he represents'.
"Probably this is the most dangerous phase of Assam politics. He is bringing money from fundamentalist organisations. In the name of social service, he is creating a network which is not conducive for Assamese culture.
"So, I think that not as an individual but as a symbol of certain people, they are the enemy of us," Sarma said.
Asked about the BJP's campaign strategy for the upcoming polls for 126-member assembly, the Assam minister said party's election committee has not finalised it yet, but said he has his own publicity theme.
"My personal campaign theme is clash of culture. Jati-Mati-Bheti (community, land and homeland) was a defensive statement. Now it is time to be offensive. For the next five years, it should be victory of culture," he added.
In 2016 Assembly polls, BJP's main slogan was to protect the 'Jati-Mati-Bheti' of Assamese people from the infiltrators from Bangladesh.
"This will be in line with our delimitation work of constituencies as well. I have decided my strategy till 2026. It will be healthy regionalism and total nationalism. There should be strong nationalism with positive regionalism," Sarma said.
On being pointed out to the issues of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and unemployment, the senior BJP leader said these are no more the poll issues in the state.
"The major issue in Assam is whether the boys will get Bullet or Splendor. People are busy with the point that government of Assam has given scooty to girls and now whether the boys will get Splendor or Bullet.
"Congress is behind the nation. If the nation has progressed by 50 years, then they are behind by 50 years. They will rake up an issue, which is old and already stale. We will rake up an issue which is fresh in the minds of young people," he added.
Under an Education Department scheme, the Assam government has distributed scooties to thousands of girl students who secured first division in Higher Secondary final examinations.
'Rahul Gandhi takes advice from Arabic speaking people'
Sarma also claimed that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi takes advice from 'Arabic speaking people', apparently hinting at Ajmal, and that is why his first election rally in the state was 'wasted'.
Sarma dared the Congress to take a stand against illegal Muslim immigrants.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an official function in Guwahati, the BJP leader claimed that the capacity of Boarding field in Sivasagar district, where Gandhi addressed a public rally during the day, is about 12,000-15,000 people, indicating that it was not well-attended.
A Congress spokesperson, however, asserted that over 50,000 people gathered at Boarding field for the rally of Gandhi, who said that his party will protect every principle of the Assam Accord and will never implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act if voted to power in the state.
"He (Gandhi) could have addressed the rally through a video conference. He came by a chartered flight, then took a chopper to reach the venue. The CRPF cover was there, administration people worked tirelessly for it. So, it was an expense of around Rs 35 lakh. And I feel this money is wasted," Sarma said.
Sarma, who was once a close confidante of Gandhi while being in the Congress, said that he would have advised the Lok Sabha MP to visit the Kamakhya temple and 'satras' (Vaishnavite places of worship) at Batadrava and Majuli to meet people.
"In this way, he would have met more people than he did in today's rally. He is a busy man and has lots of important work like running the farmers' protests. He is taking advice from the Arabic speaking people and that is why the plans have gone wrong," he said.
"It would have been better if he was advised by Assamese people," Sarma said.
On the Congress' 'Assam Bachao Ahok' bus yatra campaign across the state, the BJP leader said that the opposition party leaders are just enjoying the bus ride and moving around places.
"They are saying 'Assam Bachao'. But from whom Assam needs to be saved? From the immigrant Muslim people who came from Bangladesh and are destroying Assamese culture and identity," Sarma alleged.
He also claimed that Congress leaders are encouraging those illegal immigrants.
"So, how will Assam be saved? If they want to save Assam, let them take a stand against immigrant Muslims and say that they will protect Assamese culture," Sarma said.
To a question on the frequent visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda to Assam, Sarma said that the Congress should not feel bad if the saffron party leaders meet the people of the state.
"During the time of Congress, it had a culture of not meeting people. Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and J P Nadda have developed a culture of meeting people. After all, it is democracy. What is wrong in this?" he said.