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Citizenship Bill issue could make it hard for Sushmita Dev to retain Silchar

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Silchar, Apr 16: Sitting MP from Silchar in Assam Sushmita Dev, daughter of the veteran Congress leader and a fiery debator, Santosh Mohan Dev, triumphed in 2014 Lok Sabha elections despite 'Modi Wave' sweeping the nation. The BJP won seven out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam. Dev, one of the three Congress MPs from Assam in the Lower House, defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Kabindra Purkayastha by over 35 thousand votes.

File photo of Congress leader Sushmita Dev

For Dev, it could be an uphill task to retain the seat in 2019, not only because of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) issue, but also because BJP's chief strategist for the North East, Himanta Biswas Sarma, has given a clear signal that winning Silchar constituency is high on BJP's list of priorities. Not to mention that Dev is also battling anti-incumbency and Silchar happens to be a place where, many say, CAB has wide support along with Cachar and Karimganj districts.

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Kabindra Purkayastha, who lost to Dev in 2014, is of the opinion that the BJP is gaining in Silchar because the Congress is opposing the CAB.

Moreover, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP's key man for the North East, is leaving no stone unturned to make Dev "nervous". In Sarma's own words, "You can see that Sushmita Dev is very nervous. First, she brought Rahul Gandhi, and now Priyanka Gandhi."

Priyanka was in Silchar on April 14 to campaign for Dev. Priyanka lauded Sushmita Dev's fighting spirit and even likened her to Indira Gandhi.

Also, the BJP has been overtly vociferous about the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Silchar where there is an undercurrent of anti-refugee sentiment. Another reason to believe that Silchar is high on BJP's priority list is the fact that PM Modi has campaigned there twice since January. "We are committed to bring back the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill," Modi had said in Silchar a few days back.

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Despite opposition in other parts of Northeast, BJP has promised to bring in CAB with consultation and consensus. Many say there are takers for the CAB in some pockets of the North East and Silchar happens to be one of them.

Though, Dev defeated BJP's Kabindra Purkayastha in 2014, the margin of victory was not that big. The contest was a close one with Dev bagging 42.07% of the votes and Purkayastha getting 37.66% of the total votes cast in the Silchar Lok Sabha constituency. AIUDF's Kutub Ahmed Mazumder ended up in third place by bagging 10.69% votes. The TMC candidate Wazid Reza Osmani was a distant fourth and got just 1.04% votes.

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