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BJP in Assam: Journey to success from minority to ruling party

From winning only 5 seats in the 2011 Assam Assembly elections, to winning 86 seats in 2016, BJP has come a long way, ending a 15-year Congress rule.

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Guwahati: From winning only 5 seats in the 2011 Assam Assembly elections, to winning 86 seats the majority and preparing to form government in Assam in 2016, BJP has come a long way in the state, putting an end to the Congress rule of the past 15 years. As the Congress incumbent Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi conceded defeat and made way for Assam’s first BJP government with Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate, NewsGram traces the meteoroidal rise of BJP in Assam.

Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Wikimedia Commons
Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Wikimedia Commons

• Since independence, Congress has ruled Assam for 50 out of the total 69 years, with Tarun Gogoi at its head for the past 15 years. Since the 1980s the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Congress were the key players in the politics of Assam, while other parties such as Communists and Janata Party were on the peripherals. Congress had consistently been winning elections by a majority except for a brief 21 month rule by the Janata Party in 1978.

Congress faced its first loss in 1985, when the AGP, born out of an anti-foreigner movement led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) secured a landslide win of 92 seats, leaving the Congress with only 25 seats.

BJP entered the political scene of Assam in 1991, winning only 10 seats and that too concentrated in the Barak Valley area of the state which had a large number of Bengali Hindus and Muslims, with a majority of them being migrants from Bangladesh and Congress again formed the government.

AGP Flag, Wikimedia Commons
AGP Flag, Wikimedia Commons

• In the next elections of 1996 AGP returned to power and BJP secured only 4 seats, once again in the state’s Barack Valley area.

• Before the 2001 Assembly polls, senior BJP leader and then Union Home Minister LK Advani attempted an alliance with AGP, representing the BJP’s interests of contesting 60 seats in the 126-member House, but after extended negotiations, was allotted 46 seats by AGP and won 8 seats.

Related article: BJP and AGP join hands

Assam District Map, source: AssamGov.in
Assam District Map, source: Assam.gov.in

However, the 2001 BJP win of 8 seats is significant as the party secured seats in areas of Assam apart from Barak Valley, such as in Upper Assam (Duliajan) and Sonitpur on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, areas which had traditionally been Congress strongholds.

• BJP increased its base by winning 10 seats in the 2006 polls, gaining more seats in the Upper Assam and north bank areas including the crucial Dibrugarh seat in Upper Assam, apart from its traditional base in Barak Valley. While Congress did not win a majority in 2006, it formed the government by forging alliances with other parties.

Although BJP secured only 5 seats in 2011, their win was significant as none of the seats secured were from its strong-hold area of Barak Valley, instead BJP won seats in Lower Assam, Central Assam and Upper Assam.

• By 2011 the popularity of the Congress government was disseminating as Assam slid down development indicators and growth stagnated. The Gogoi government, in power for 15 consecutive years, was viewed as inefficient, uncaring and corrupt.

The ‘Modi effect’ spreading across the country in addition to the efforts of RSS in Assam revolutionized the image and impact of BJP in the state, which has ultimately led to the landslide victory of 86 seats in 2016.

 Assam Chief Minister -designate Sarbananda Sonowal, Wikimedia Commons
Assam Chief Minister -designate Sarbananda Sonowal, Wikimedia Commons

RSS Strategy
RSS used extensive perseverance and welcomed Assamese sub-nationalism into its fold. The two most prominent BJP members in Assam, chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal and master strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma who both were a part of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU)-led Assam movement have proved to be priceless assets for the BJP. Sonowal was president of AASU before joining the AGP, after which he became an MLA then Lok Sabha MP of the AGP before joining BJP in 2011. Sarma earlier was a part of Congress, before quitting in protest against Gogoi’s style of functioning before formally joining BJP in August 2015. In addition to Sonowal and Sarma, RSS also inducted popular politicians like Bijoya Chakraborty, Dibrugarh Rameshwar Teli and Ramen Deka from other parties into BJP
Apart from incorporating big-wigs into BJP, RSS reached out to the general population of Assam, from tea garden laborers to large sections of the Ahoms, the original inhabitants of the state.

Interesting Fact: In a turn of events from the 2001 Assembly polls where BJP was allotted only 46 seats by AGP despite extended negotiations, in 2016 when AGP was keen on an alliance with BJP, AGP was allotted only 24 seats by BJP.

(Inputs from Swarajyamag.com)

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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Facebook Assigns A Task Force For The Elections in India in 2019

Facebook said that India was an important market for Facebook and that it was strengthening the team in India to understand the local forms of hate speech.

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Fake News, Facebook
This photo shows the logo for Facebook on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. VOA

 Facing the uphill task of tackling election-related interference on its platform as India gets ready for polls next year, Facebook on Saturday said it is establishing a task force comprising “hundreds of people” in the country to prevent bad actors from abusing its platform.

“With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, told the media here.

Facebook has also set a goal of bringing a transparency feature for political ads — now available in the US and Brazil — to India by March next year, Allan informed.

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad.

Facebook, India
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

In May this year, Facebook announced that all election-related ads on Facebook and Instagram in the US must be clearly labelled — including a “Paid for by” disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad.

When users click on the label, they would be taken to an archive with more information such as the campaign budget associated with an individual ad and how many people saw it – including their age, location and gender, Facebook had said.

The social media giant later introduced the transparency feature in Brazil.

The introduction of the same feature in India would help users identify political propaganda easily.

“The task force for India will have security specialists and content specialists, among others, who will try to understand all the possible forms of election-related abuse in India,” added Allan during a workshop on Facebook’s “community standards” in the capital.

India
A gardener works on the lawns of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India. VOA

Allan explained that while the disinformation linked to real-world violence is checked by the team mandated to maintain Facebook’s community standards, other forms of disinformation are handled by a different team of fact checkers.

“The challenge for the task force in India would be to distinguish between real political news and political propaganda,” Allan noted, adding that the team would be very much based in the country and would consist of both existing human resources working on these issues within the company and new recruits.

Facebook came under intense scrutiny of policy makers in the US after allegations of Russia-linked accounts using the social networking platform to spread divisive messages during the 2016 presidential election surfaced.

Since then, it has stepped up efforts to check abuse of its platform by bringing in more transparency in the conduct of its businesses, including in advertisement policies.

India, BJP
Counting of Karnataka polls will be done on 15th May, VOA

Echoing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s earlier comments on elections across the world, Allan said the social media platform “wants to help countries around the world, including India, to conduct free and fair elections”.

In April, Zuckerberg said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere.

“Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions,” he told US lawmakers during a hearing.

Facebook uses a combination of technology, including Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and reports from its community to identify violating content on the platform.

The reports are reviewed by members of its “Community Operations” team who review content in over 50 languages in the world, including 12 from India.

Facebook, India
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

“By the end of 2018, we will have 20,000 people working on these issues, double the number we had at the same time last year,” he said.

“We are also working to enhance the work we do to proactively detect violating content,” Allan said.

Speaking at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here later in the day, Allan said Facebook was cooperating fully with the investigating agency (Central Bureau of Investigation) in India with regard to the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal.

The British political consultancy firm was in the midst of a huge controversy for allegedly inappropriately harvesting data from about 87 million Facebook accounts.

Without giving details of the impact that the Cambridge Analytica scandal had on India, he said that the impact was probably limited and that most users in India need not worry that their data was stolen.

Also Read: Facebook Better Prepared to Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

“Yes, we have a responsibility to keep data safe. We employ some of the best security engineers in the world. When we notice a breach, we let people know immediately,” Allan said at the summit.

“We are investing more and more in countries outside the US so that they can tell us how our services should be designed,” he said, adding that India was an important market for Facebook and that it was strengthening the team in India to understand the local forms of hate speech. (IANS)