Understanding BJP’s Success in Assam During the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of E​PW.

How did the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) succeed during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Assam despite widespread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) in the state?

In their 2019 article, Deepankar Basu and Debarshi Das offer three reasons behind the party’s success. First, they argue that BJP’s support for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam assuaged “anxieties of indigenous communities over Bangladeshi infiltration.” Second, they write that the CAA offers safeguards to Hindu migrants endangered by the NRC from being treated as stateless people. Third, they suggest that the BJP had forged strategic alliances with regional parties to present the party as one that was aligned with the “sons-of-the-soil.” In a separate article, Dhruba Pratim Sharma and Vikas Tripathi add that the BJP’s success in a state with a dominance of politics based on linguistic and tribal identities suggests increasing religion-based polarisation.

Akhil Ranjan Dutta responds to all four authors, arguing that they did not adequately investigate anti-CAA mobilisations and why the movement did not necessarily translate into voting decisions. Basu and Das reply to Dutta, stating that they largely agree with his observations. They see BJP’s success as particularly striking given that the party sees “Hindu religion is the chief marker of identity, not indigeneity.” The authors add that the BJP also operationalised fears of Muslims, particularly migrant-settler Muslims.

Dutta responds to Basu and Das, stating that anti-Muslim beliefs are not the “prime driving force of mobilisation against the ‘illegal’ migrants in ­Assam.”


A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. The Curious Case of Citizenship in Assam: A Look at the 1980s Agitation, EPW Engage, 2019
  2. Determination of Citizenship through Lineage in the Assam NRC Is Inherently Exclusionary, Ditilekha Sharma, 2019
  3. NRC, Assam, and What Makes a Citizen: Navigate Our Snakes-and-Ladders Citizenship Guide, EPW Engage, 2020
  4. Quandary of National Register of Citizens, Editorial, 2019
  5. The Citizen Finds a Home: Identity Politics in Karbi Anglong, Gaurav Rajkhowa, Ankur Tamuliphukan, and Bidyut Sagar Boruah, 2018

Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at edit@epw.in with the subject line—"Politics and Belonging."


Curated by Abhishek Shah [abhishekshah@epw.in]


Image courtesy: Modified. Wikimedia Commons/SlowPhoton [CC BY-SA 3.0]
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