Assam river island voters push for development

MAJULI (ASSAM): Voters in the world’s largest river island of Majuli have been rallying behind Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is seeking re-election from the tribal stronghold seat which is surrounded by the turbulent waters of the Brahmaputra.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heavyweight is pitted against three-time Congress MLA Rajib Lochan Pegu. But the Scheduled Tribe-reserved voters of Majuli seem to have decided to bet on Sonowal for “trying to honour his commitment to the people in the past five years”.

Majuli will go to the polls in phase-1 on Saturday.

The state has a total of 126 seats and the first phase polling will be exercised in 47, that will decide whether the BJP-led alliance retains power or the Congress-led grouping that includes the AIUDF stages a comeback.

“We have decided to vote for Sonowal again, he has done a lot for the people of Majuli since 2016, especially building roads everywhere,” said Kamaleswar Noroh from the Naganchuk village.

He belongs to the dominant Mising tribe, the biggest indigenous tribal community in Majuli.

The Mising tribe has a significant vote bank in Majuli and it always supported Congress but they switched their loyalty to the BJP since the last assembly polls.

A hardcore Congress supporter, Srimanta Saikia from Potiyari village, said: “Sarbananda Sonowal had given Majuli the status of district in 2016 which was the long pending demand and thus people have great respect for him but Congress is giving a tough fight to him.”

Majuli is shrinking fast as Brahmaputra’s erosion has destroyed a significant chunk over the years and it is feared that the river island district will be a part of history by 2050.

Majuli was 880 in size at the start of 20th century, but now it has been reduced to roughly 350 sq km.

The pace of erosion is alarmingly fast in recent years.

Majuli is always a dream destination for tourists mainly for bird watchers but road connectivity is still a huge issue as residents are largely dependent on ferry services to communicate people outside of the world.

The construction work on a two-lane river bridge to connect Jorhat district which was a lifelong demand of Majuli voters is yet to begin.

The ruling BJP says that all decks have been cleared for the Majuli-Jorhat bridge and ‘bhoomi poojan’ has already been performed and construction work would follow soon.

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