As the assembly elections draws closer in Assam, the pre-poll campaign rhetoric exchanged between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the pro-minority All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) is turning increasingly vicious. The situation has worsened after serious charges about the AIUDF leader, MP Badruddin Ajmal’s NGOs receiving Islamic terror funds, were made public. The Union Home Ministry under Amit Shah has already begun a probe into the matter. Significantly Shah is also the main strategist for Assam assembly polls and had visited the state recently. There can be no denying that such an allegation from the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) is a big setback to Ajmal’s party, coming at the worst possible time. Nevertheless, on his behalf, his son and MLA Abdur Rahim Ajmal has denied the accusations and called it a political conspiracy. State BJP leaders, however, insist that despite such denials, Ajmal’s involvement in the matter cannot be ruled out.
The major allegation against his foundation is that it received funds to the tune of over Rs. 60 crores (unconfirmed reports) from the IHH international organisation. Operating out of Turkey, the IHH has been suspected of having a linkage with the Islamist extremist Al- Qaeda group. Not only this, the NGOs were linked with other dubious organisations as well, according to open source information. NCPCR officials conducted a probe into the workings of these NGOs in December itself and concluded of mismanagement and irregularities in their report. Local NGO operatives dismissed such charges, alleging that the NCPCR personnel barged in without prior intimation. As for the discrepancy in the number of children present physically and officially on roll, they explained that it was not unusual for parents to take their children back home occasionally. Not surprisingly, vice president of Assam BJP Jayanta Malla Baruah has also taken a strong line against the AIUDF. He has been quoted by the state-based media as saying that an immediate probe at the highest level was necessary in view of the historical perspective of the present situation. He recently stated, “From generations ago, there had been a concerted effort to turn Assam into a Muslim-majority state, by means of unchecked illegal migration from East Pakistan.” Additionally, specifically referring to Ajmal and his role in state politics, Baruah said that while Ajmal posed no political challenge, he remained a threat against community life in Assam.
Clearly there is every possibility of the controversy snowballing into a major election issue in the days ahead. The AIUDF now has to conduct its own defence against very serious allegations concerning illegal activity and national security at the highest level, quite apart from the business of politically challenging a resurgent BJP in Assam. The proposed Congress-AIUDF alliance could also be impacted negatively by the controversy. There is little doubt that even if the AIUDF’s standing among Muslims may not be affected substantially, the Congress party as its ally may have a harder time justifying its controversial tie-up with Ajmal’s outfit. As it is the professedly ‘secular’ party stands divided on the question of facing elections jointly with an outfit commonly regarded as representing Muslim interests.