With hardly three months left for the assembly elections, it is clear that a grand alliance in the lines of Bihar is not going to materialize in Assam. The State’s polity is much too fragmented to allow the sort of common front Nitish Kumar, Laloo Prasad and the Congress high command forged in Bihar to check the Modi juggerut. The absence of issue based politics in Assam is opening the door to all sorts of shadow alliances and covert understandings, leaving the electorate confused as to who is going with whom. The AGP has supposedly decided to go it alone, with its general council reiterating the central executive’s stand. Surely this position is good for the Congress, facing anti-incumbency, as it ensures a split in the anti-Congress votes. Pro-Congress leanings of leaders like Durga Das Boro and Phanibhushan Choudhury perceived to be in the Prafulla Mahanta camp, have added grist to the rumor mills. But by putting the ball in the steering committee’s court, the party’s highest policy making body, is the AGP leadership still sigling its openness for a tempting alliance offer to come through at the last moment? BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma is among those fuelling such speculations with his comment of keeping doors ajar for the AGP till the time for filing nomition papers. During deliberations within the AGP, some leaders had loudly vented frustration before the media about seeking around 48 seats from the BJP but being offered only 15-18 seats in return. Meanwhile, grassroots workers from both parties belonging to constituencies likely for such trade-off have made life difficult for their leaders. No doubt orchestrated by ticket seekers, these protests have been rocking the AGP and BJP party offices for the last fortnight. After all, even if a candidate may not win, he or she still stands to gain in the kind of money power being readied for elections in the State. As for the AIUDF, its announcement of contesting 60 seats while leaving the remaining 66 seats for the Congress, has triggered a political slanging match. The Sangh Parivar has contended this is proof of the covert understanding between the two parties, pointing to Badruddin Ajmal’s comment about ‘Hindu votes’ getting consolidated if the AIUDF and Congress join hands openly. In turn, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to Congress leaders like Ripun Bora have accused the AIUDF of striking a secret deal with the BJP, pointing to the AIUDF’s plan to contest in over 30 seats where Muslim voters are not in majority. Splitting of the Muslim electorate will only benefit the BJP, the Congress warns. State minister Siddique Ahmed has gone further by alleging that the AIUDF supremo, apart from taking crores from the BJP, is working to ‘protect his intertiol business interests’. The allusion is to Ajmal’s perfume business in the Gulf being susceptible to pressure in Mumbai and New Delhi, where the BJP holds the reins. How the Congress handles Ajmal remains to be seen, but the ruling party is already trying hard to cobble an anti-Hagrama front in BTAD areas with ABSU and parties like Urkhao Gwrwa Brahma’s UPP and NDFB(P). The Congress, after all, has paid dearly for neglecting its base in BTAD areas for over a decade when it was allied with Hagrama’s BPF. Parallel efforts by the Oboro Suraksha Mancha, the two AKRSU factions, AAMSU and several other organizations to fight elections jointly in BTAD areas will surely impart an extra edge to the looming electoral battle in BTAD areas. Where it leaves the BJP’s much vaunted ‘Mission 84 plus’ is anybody’s guess, after leaving around 14 seats for the BPF to contest, and looking for alliance partners among tribal organizations. In such a political chequerboard, conscious voters will have to keep a wary lookout to spot all bogus and shadow candidates, and make their precious votes count.
Alliance shadow play