In search of a Third Front
It is clear that for the people of Assam, the most important political issue at present is to bring about an end to the Tarun Gogoi regime’s misrule. His government for three successive terms have been marked by administrative drift, widespread inertia and all-pervasive corruption. This has taken its toll on the social infrastructure of the State. Reports coming from the Accountant General’s office show how the Congress government failed to utilise a staggering Rs 86,000 crore in the last ten years earmarked for Assam. The Assembly elections are a year away, giving people of the State sufficient time to weigh their options carefully and make the right choice to bring about a change in this sorry state of affairs. So the most important question facing voters is — which political altertive can be relied upon to bring about wholesome change? There is now much talk in political quarters about a third altertive. But the question of a third altertive arises only when a credible second altertive is missing. The last 14 years have shown that no second altertive strong enough to challenge the Congress has emerged in the State. For long, the regiol and Leftist forces have been in disarray. After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the hope has grown stronger that the BJP may at last consolidate itself as a major force in Assam as well. The saffron party did far better than expected by winning seven parliamentary seats from Assam and is targeting 2016 as its watershed year in the State.
The BJP’s promises to bring about a clean and efficient administration as well as safeguard the interests of indigenous people, have struck a responsive chord in Assam. It is significant that in the run up to the BTC elections in April, an exodus has already begun from the ruling BPF to the BJP. How this will affect BJP’s fortunes in the elections remains to be seen, but the question arises — are some Bodo leaders seeing a more viable future in the saffron party? So even as the second altertive posed by the BJP is slowly taking shape, the speculation about a third altertive is throwing up all sorts of political permutations and combitions. The most important question is — which party will take the lead in cobbling this so-called third altertive? The spotlight is upon Akhil Gogoi’s Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which is gearing up for its annual convention from March 20 at Rangoli near Moran. The expectation is that the political avatar of KMSS will be born in this meet. Another newborn political forum ‘Pragatisheel Jatiya garik Manch, Assam’ has been holding marathon discussions to thresh out the contours of a possible third altertive. The Asom Ga Parishad (AGP) too is trying to bring together Leftist, social-democratic and regiol parties to chart a way forward and provide a credible altertive to voters.
After the unprecedented AAP landslide win in Delhi, KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi has been much enthused to try something on a similar scale in Assam. After all, Gogoi and Arvind Kejriwal were comrade-in-arms in the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement for a clean polity. But will Gogoi opt for an AAP-like formulation or a Marxist-Leninist structure for his projected party? Earlier Gogoi was not in favour of contesting elections under the existing political system. Last year, he campaigned against the Congress in the parliamentary elections by backing the BJP, AIUDF and left parties in different constituencies. But that campaign did nothing to raise the profile of the KMSS. With rendra Modi-led BJP making a spectacular comeback at the Centre, Gogoi identified the BJP as the major adversary in Assam. But in the last few days, Gogoi has put AIUDF in the same category as the BJP, even though his KMSS compatriot Kamal Medhi has recently commented that there can be no objection to AIUDF belonging to the ‘Third Front’. In the backdrop of all this uncertainty, political parties need to learn one lesson. It is that if a party or coalition does not take a clear, unequivocal stand on issues, it will never be accepted as a credible altertive by voters in Assam. It is because of the absence of such an altertive that the Tarun Gogoi led Congress government has maged to hold on to power in the State for 14 years now. It will continue with its regressive politics of playing one population group against another and dividing its opposition — unless some good sense dawns on other political parties.