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Identity politics

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  7 Dec 2015 12:00 AM GMT

With the assembly elections looming barely five months away, political parties in Assam are on the lookout for allies. The reality of the fractured polity in the State is such that no party can expect to prevail by going it alone in all 126 constituencies. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi with his customary bombast has frequently spoken of how the Congress is ready to fight it out as a lone ranger. But his posturing has few takers; it is almost certain that the Congress high command has seen the writing on the wall in Assam. After hitching its fading star to the JD(U)-RJD combine in Bihar and now enjoying a revival in its fortunes there after many years, the Congress is not likely to push its luck in Assam by fancying it can do a repeat of 2011 when it alone bagged 79 seats. The terms under which the Congress and AIUDF leaders are likely to sew up an alliance, has of late been a matter of intense speculation in political quarters. Will AIUDF supremo Badaruddin Ajmal agree to be deputy chief minister in such an arrangement? Ajmal has however hinted at a different sort of understanding with the Congress. He has ruled out any pre-poll alliance with the Congress because such a development will ‘bring Hindu voters together and benefit the BJP’. Expanding this logic further, Ajmal has said that while his party is certain to do much better than the 27 seats it bagged last election, putting up candidates in all 126 seats this time will only ‘polarise votes and adversely affect the AIUDF as well as the Congress’. So the AIUDF will put up candidates in about 78-80 seats though it is prepared to go alone. But after the polls, the AIUDF is ready to ally with the Congress, Ajmal has stated. So if both parties bargain hard, the likelihood is more of such an informal understanding in which seats will be either left for the other to contest, or only token candidates put up. Earlier, BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary had commented that his party and the AIUDF will be the next kingmakers in Dispur. After recent meetings between the top leaderships of the BPF and the BJP, it is becoming apparent in which camp Mohilary now stands. He has spoken candidly that ‘if the BJP solves the problems of BTAD areas, the BPF will stand with the BJP’. Though Mohilary has positioned himself to lead the tribal platform United People’s Forum, it is the AIUDF which has challenged his party’s authority in BTAD areas by questioning the BTC accord. As for the BJP, has it learnt the lesson in Bihar to push for a viable alliance in Assam with tribal and regiol parties? Apart from the BPF, other tribal constituents of the United People’s Forum like the HSDP in Dima Hasao and Karbi Hills, Ranuj Pegu’s Gashakti and Rabha Jatiya Oikyamanch have been drawing closer to the saffron party. If the BJP prevails in its reported bargaining with the AGP, the contours of a regiol-indigenous alliance is likely to emerge. Once it comes in collision course with a minority-based alliance, political issues in Assam will be less about development and more about asserting identities. If such divides are cynically manipulated, the fissures may well become permanent with serious implications for the future.

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