North East

Infrastructure Development Pays Electoral Dividends For BJP, And This Assam Constituency Will Prove It In 2024 — Ground Report From Guwahati

Jaideep Mazumdar

May 03, 2024, 01:09 PM | Updated May 04, 2024, 12:27 PM IST

An aerial view of Guwahati showing one of its new elevated roads.
An aerial view of Guwahati showing one of its new elevated roads.
  • There’s a certain zing about Guwahati, a bounce in its steps and an excitement about a brighter future among its people that’s unmistakable.
  • Even frequent visitors to Guwahati like me are often left wide-eyed at the fast-changing face of the city. 

    The breathtaking pace of development over the past eight years since the BJP came to power in the state is quickly transforming Guwahati into a modern, world-class and lively city with elevated roads, bridges, walking streets, food streets, a beautiful riverfront, and much more. 

    Apart from mega projects already underway, there’s a lot more on the cards, says Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. His promise has only whetted the appetite and aspirations of residents of the city and its surrounding areas for more vikaas. And this is working in favour of the BJP, the party of choice when it comes to progress. 

    The list of projects that have, and are, changing the face of the city is long and varied: six elevated roads and flyovers, an elevated drive by the Brahmaputra river, two new bridges coming up spanning the river, a ring road that’ll decongest the city and develop many peripheral areas, stormwater drains that’ll mitigate the city’s chronic waterlogging (during monsoons), riverfront development, piped water to households (for the first time in the city!), ‘green’ buses, ropeways and a lot more. 

    “The development that Guwahati has witnessed over the past few years is many times that of the minuscule progress that the city recorded in the 65 years of Congress rule. People are not only thankful for all this, but they also know that it is only the BJP that can continue this pace of development. The Congress hasn’t done anything because it is incapable and also does not believe in progress,” Bijuli Kalita Medhi, the BJP candidate for the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat, told Swarajya.  

    The transformation brought about in Guwahati by the BJP governments at the state and federal levels working in sync are visible to everyone, she added.

    Aerial view of Guwahati with an elevated road
    Aerial view of Guwahati with an elevated road

    “We are getting a state-of-art airport soon and the existing one has been beautified to an extent no one would have thought possible. The railway station has been upgraded and modernised, we have a new AIIMS now and a lot more will happen over the next five years,” she says. 

    The ongoing transformation of Guwahati, says economist Prasanta Kumar Gogoi, has positive repercussions far beyond the city. “With all this progress in infrastructure, healthcare and other facilities, Guwahati’s economy is also getting a huge boost. This is now visible in the sharp rise in the city’s GDP. And this will spur growth not only in the entire Kamrup, but neighbouring districts as well,” said Gogoi. 

    That is why, claims state BJP leader Ananta Deori, people of the entire Guwahati Lok Sabha seat that includes four Assembly segments of Kamrup (rural) district, two Assembly seats of neighbouring Goalpara district besides the five Assembly seats of Guwahati Metro “are very enthusiastic about voting for the BJP”. 

    “Since Guwahati’s economy is growing at such a fast pace, thanks to all the development that the city is witnessing, the surrounding areas in Goalpara, Barpeta, Nalbari, Darrang and Morigaon districts have already started benefiting from the spin-offs of this economic growth of the city. So it is just not the residents of Guwahati, but also the surrounding districts, who are benefiting from the development-induced growth in Guwahati,” said Sarthak Jain, an economist with a leading public-sector bank. 

    For nearly 45 years since it became the capital of Assam in 1972--the capital of the undivided Assam state was Shillong, Guwahati became the capital after Meghalaya was carved out of Assam--Guwahati suffered monumental neglect and apathy at the hands of successive Congress regimes. 

    “While the population of Guwahati exploded, its infrastructure remained the same. It grew in size, but that growth was completely unplanned. Sewage lines were not laid, drains were not constructed, roads remained narrow and mostly unpaved and we didn’t even have piped water. Waterlogging even after brief showers was common, we lacked a proper garbage disposal system and civic services were largely absent,” recalled Shankar Barua, a prominent nephrologist attached to a leading private healthcare provider. 

    Brahmaputra riverfront being developed in Guwahati.
    Brahmaputra riverfront being developed in Guwahati.

    Former bureaucrat Nabin Chandra Deka told Swarajya that the change that Guwahati has witnessed over the last eight years is “mind-boggling”. “We, the residents of Guwahati, could never have imagined that such a lot of change is possible in such a short period. The Guwahati that we see today is vastly different from the Guwahati we lived in even ten years ago,” said Deka, who retired twelve years ago. 

    A cross-section of people who spoke to Swarajya were unanimous in their view that Guwahati has, at long last, become a city worth living in. And they want this progress to continue, which is why they will vote for the BJP. 

    Congress’ negative & divisive campaign:

    But the Congress seems to have misread people’s quest for more development. The party has been running a largely negative campaign belittling the slew of development projects that the city has witnessed. 

    Congress candidate Mira Borthakur Goswami has been saying that all the development projects that the city has witnessed in recent years were initiated during the tenure of the last Congress government headed by Tarun Gogoi.

    “People of Guwahati are now enjoying the benefits of projects that were initiated by the Congress. The credit for all that is happening should rightfully go to the Congress,” she asserts at her public meetings. 

    There are very few takers for her assertion. She has also been alleging that all the infrastructure projects in Guwahati are mired in corruption and a politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus has syphoned off huge sums of money from these projects. 

    But, again, such allegations are met with scepticism. “Projects are being implemented at a very fast pace and are being completed in record time. When the Congress was in power, constructing a flyover would take over a decade but now it is done in a matter of a couple of years. So it is apparent who is corrupt and who is not,” said Shankar Barua, the nephrologist. 

    The Congress has also been running a divisive campaign that has left many in the largely urban parliamentary constituency angry. About 30% of the electorate is Muslim and the Congress has been trying very hard to get their support by stoking fears among them. 

    “Unable to counter our pitch for more development due to its own poor track record on the issue, the Congress is telling the Muslims that the BJP is an anti-Muslim party. But our agenda for progress is not discriminatory and Muslims have also benefited from all the development that has happened,” said BJP candidate Bijuli Kalita Medhi. 

    BJP candidate Bijuli Kalita Medhi
    BJP candidate Bijuli Kalita Medhi

    The Congress is also trying to instigate the Rabhas, an indigenous tribal community, who form about eleven percent of the electorate. The death of a daring but controversial lady police sub-inspector, Junmoni Rabha, in a road accident last year has been raked up by the Congress. 

    Junmoni Rabha’s family had always alleged that she was murdered and had been demanding an impartial probe into her death. The state government had ordered a probe by the state CID and investigations are on. 

    But the Congress has got Sumitra Rabha, mother of Junmoni, to declare her support for the party candidate. She has been participating in the Congress campaign and telling people of her community that the BJP government in the state was responsible for the ‘murder’ of her daughter who had become quite popular within her community and used to be called the ‘Dabbang cop’. 

    Though this campaign has had some effect among the Rabhas in the rural areas, a large section of this tribal community have not fallen for the instigation. “It is wrong to assume that she (Rabha) was murdered and that the BJP is to blame for it. An impartial probe that was demanded is on and let us know the outcome first,” Deben Rabha, a retired deputy superintendent of police, told Swarajya

    Voices of the common people

    Jonaki Rabha, a homemaker whose husband is a schoolteacher in Guwahati, told Swarajya that Junmoni Rabha’s death should not be made into an issue in the campaign. “The most important issue is development, health, education, employment etc. Parties have to concentrate on those,” she said. 

    Bikas Debnath, an employee with a private telecom operator, said that he will vote for the BJP because it has brought about progress. “We have lived and suffered under the Congress for so long. It is only now that we are experiencing such progress. Why would we want to go back to the dark days?” he asks. 

    Debnath said that infrastructure development of Guwahati and the policies of the state and Union governments has resulted in economic progress. “Guwahati has become one of the fastest growth centres of my company, and that has benefited me as well,” he said. 

    Nabin Das, owner of a small store selling tobacco products on Dr B.K.Kakati Road in the Ulubari area of Guwahati is a happy man. “My son, who passed out of ITI, was jobless for a year but was recruited by an engineering major which has bagged major infrastructure projects. Had the government not started these projects, my son would have still been jobless,” he said.

    Nabin Das, owner of a small store selling tobacco products.
    Nabin Das, owner of a small store selling tobacco products.

    Das, 52, is also happy that Guwahati’s chronic waterlogging problem is now being solved. “Even modest rains would result in overflowing drains and water used to flood my house and shop. Since last year, even after heavy rains, the water drains away very quickly. This year, there’ll be no waterlogging at all and this problem has been resolved permanently by the BJP government. That’s why I’ll vote for the BJP,” said Das. 

    Imtiaz Ali, 38, a vegetable seller on Rehabari Road, says that the “huge improvement in health infrastructure” has benefited him personally. “The health insurance scheme of the state and central government has helped me and my family a lot. The medical treatment we get at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) has improved vastly. I don’t care if the BJP is a Hindu party, I’ll vote for it since the BJP has brought about development that has benefited everyone, irrespective of religion,” he told Swarajya.  

    Vegetable-seller Imtiaz Ali
    Vegetable-seller Imtiaz Ali

    Rituraj Kalita, a taxi-owner, says that the chronic traffic congestion problem that used to plague Guwahati has been addressed to a major extent with the construction of flyovers and elevated roads. 

    “My earnings have more than doubled in recent months after the commissioning of the flyovers. I used to waste hours stuck in traffic jams earlier. Now I make double the trips I used to make earlier. Other measures like health insurance schemes for us have also benefited us. There’s no reason why I won’t vote for the BJP,” he told Swarajya

    There are lakhs of others like Rituraj, Imtiaz, Nabin Das, Bikas Debnath and Jonaki Rabha who have benefited from the infrastructure and other development projects, as well as the myriad welfare schemes initiated by the BJP-led state and Union governments.

    The upgrade that Guwahati has witnessed in recent years has also instilled a sense of pride among its residents. “Earlier, this was a congested, dirty city with overflowing drains, potholed roads, traffic congestions, overflowing garbage and extremely poor infrastructure. All that is history now and people are proud to say now that they belong to Guwahati. That is a huge change that has happened,” said sociologist Ratna Phukan, a teacher at a prominent girls college in Guwahati. 

    While driving to the airport to catch a flight out of Guwahati, I noticed another project underway on the riverfront. My cab driver, Foyjal Ali, tells me it is a tourism project. “I don’t know exactly what it is about. It is difficult to keep track of the many things happening here now. Maybe by the time you come here next time, this will be complete,” he said, adding that Guwahati’s fast changing face has transformed lives for the better, 

    There’s a certain zing about Guwahati, a bounce in its steps and an excitement about a brighter future among its people that’s unmistakable. And it is the BJP that has brought about this change, say people of the city. And that, obviously, translates into support for the BJP. 

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.


    A road trip through the poorest regions of India — its heartland