Assam's fate hangs in the balance
New Delhi: The crucial round of state legislative assembly elections in five Indian states began with polling for 62 out of 126 seats in the Congress party-ruled Assam.
Considered as a gateway to the exotic northeastern states, popularly known as the Seven Sisters due to presence of seven states in the region, Assam may see an end of the decade-old rule of the Congress party, if the final results are in consonance with the verdicts of various pre-poll surveys held over the past couple of months.
All available indications suggest the state is headed for electing a hung assembly and formation of a coalition government could be the only answer to break the emerging political deadlock.
The word Assam evokes diverse feelings to different people. If connoisseurs know Assam for its exquisite tea, Hindus the world over know it for some of the famous temples and black magic associated with them. The state has India's largest oil reserves.
The mighty river Brahmaputra flows through the state and has been an inspiration for many musicians and writers.
And to the students of politics, the state is known to be "home" of the non-resident Dr Manmohan Singh, the incumbent Indian prime minister who registered himself as a voter of Assam upon becoming the federal minister in 1991 and has continued to represent Assam in the Rajya Sabha.
Of late, however, Assam has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, be it corruption, internal strife or large scale illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Assam's history is ambiguous. Its inhabitants comprise migrants from Burma and China and present a fusion of Mongol-Aryan culture. The state known by several names saw the existence of several kingdoms, including a brief rule by the Burma which invaded it in the early 19th century. The Anglo-Burmese war saw the British taking control of the state.
Initially it was part of the Bengal Presidency and became a separate state in 1874. The tendency to bring plantation labour from other states started during the colonial British rule and the trend continued even after India attained independence. The Indian authorities divided the state by granting statehoods to Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
The state played host to nearly two million refugees entering its territories as the then East Pakistan erupted into a civil war. Even after East Pakistan became an independent Bangladesh in 1971, the refugees refused to return home. Allegedly corrupt and greedy politicians let them stay back due to monetary or voting reasons.
The issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants has since then dominated electoral politics of the state and is one of the major issues as the state is ready to elect its new legislative assembly in two phases on April 4 and April 11.