It is no surprise that political equations in Assam have been rapidly changing in the past few days as the 2016 assembly elections loom ever closer. When the Congress retained power at the Centre with more seats in 2009, it scored a resounding hat-trick in Assam even though most political alysts here had predicted otherwise. But after the rendra Modi-led BJP’s landslide win last year at the Centre and consolidation of the saffron wave in several states before 2014 and thereafter, the political scerio in Assam was set for a sea-change. In a bid to keep up its winning momentum, the BJP (albeit the Delhi setback) is now eyeing Assam as its gateway to expansion in the Northeast. BJP tiol president Amit Shah’s visit to Guwahati on Tuesday to take stock of the party’s public contact programme ‘Maha Sampark Abhiyan’ was significant in more ways than one. His series of closed-door meetings with State and district BJP leaders, BJP MPs and MLAs, as well as conveners and presidents of BJP units in other NE states, seemed to carry a ‘now or never’ urgency in capitalising on the saffron groundwork laid in the region. The party’s organisatiol general secretary Ram Lal indicated as much when he said that his party ‘is in power in 13 states presently, and aims to increase the tally to 20 by 2019’.
Much however depends on how realistic the BJP’s gameplan of ‘Mission 84+’ is in Assam, considering its current strength in the State Assembly stands at just six MLAs. Will the BJP succeed in raising its numbers in the Assembly up by fourteen-fold merely on the strength of a perceived strong anti-incumbency wave the ruling Congress is likely to face in ten months? What strategy will the saffron party employ in seats held tightly by parties like the AIUDF and BPF? The BJP’s strategy to attract six ethnic communities agitating for ST status may also be vital for its electoral fortunes. On the other hand, the renewed activity of the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led dissident bloc in the Congress, has set off speculations in political circles with Sarma reportedly in touch with the BJP tiol leadership as well as a section of AGP leaders. Whether this leads to an exodus of some disgruntled Congress leaders to the BJP after 3-4 months or lead to the formation of a broad regiol front with parties like the AGP, HSDP, Sanmilita Gashakti and Congress dissidents remains to be seen.