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Why BJP Retreated Over Naming Assam Colleges After Deendayal Upadhyaya

Since assuming power at the Centre, BJP in the last three years has attempted to resurrect top leaders in the RSS pantheons — from Deendayal Upadhyaya to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

Subhajit Sengupta | CNN-News18SubhajitSG

Updated:September 19, 2017, 12:04 PM IST
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Why BJP Retreated Over Naming Assam Colleges After Deendayal Upadhyaya
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi being showered with flower petals on arrival at a celebration on Assam assembly polls victory. (Getty Images)
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New Delhi: BJP government in Assam has had to rescind its earlier decision to name model colleges after RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya. The U-turn comes in the wake of opposition, both from outside and within, with even alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) accusing the BJP of “hurting the sentiments of those who voted it” to power.

In 2016, BJP won an absolute majority in the assembly elections to install its first chief minister in the state. Since then, the party has continually attempted to expand its political and ideological footprint in the north-east. The naming of the colleges was perhaps part of the whole exercise, which had to be reviewed in the wake of strong opposition.

The incident is also BJP’s first tryst with vast social-economic diversity in the country.

Since assuming power at the Centre, BJP in the last three years has attempted to resurrect top leaders in the RSS pantheons — from Deendayal Upadhyaya to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Many schemes have been named after founding member of the erstwhile Jana Sangh. BJP also organised nationwide programmes in the last twelve months to mark Deendayal Upadhyaya’s birth centenary.

The Assam experiment and naming of colleges was perhaps part of the larger project. Proposed to be set up with Central aid, these colleges were sanctioned for districts with relatively lower gross enrolment in higher education than the national average.

But the proposal ran into rough weather, with BJP’s ally Asom Gana Parishad as well as the other pressure groups like All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) putting up a strong protest against the move. AASU called it a “gross injustice to the eminent personalities of Assam who had contributed immensely towards education and social upliftment”.

AASU which once led the anti-migrant movement in Assam to oust Congress from power in the eighties, instead suggested these educational institutions be named after the personalities from the state such as Sahityarathi Lakhsminath Bezbaroa, Padmanath Gohain Baruah, Gopinath Bordoloi, Bhimbor Deuri, Moidul Islam Bora and Krishna Kanta Handique among others.

Main opposition party Congress too had come down heavily on the government and called it “a stark declaration of unabashed cultural imperialism”. But what got the government to drop the idea was a strong opposition from the ally AGP with its president Atul Bora saying that naming the colleges after Upadhyaya would mean hurting the sentiments.

Interestingly, chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal himself comes from the AGP stock who won his spurs in politics under the aegis of AASU. A large section of AASU and AGP got subsumed in the BJP in the last fifteen years. But the strong sentiment seeking to protect the socio-cultural identity of Assam persists in their minds. Perhaps the reason why BJP has had to beat a hasty retreat this time around.
| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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