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Mending fences

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leadership rushing to mend fences with a faction of party leaders indicates the worries


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  25 Aug 2020 12:55 AM GMT

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leadership rushing to mend fences with a faction of party leaders indicates the worries of the regional party that the inner party rivalry may push it to an existential crisis in 2021 assembly polls. The move by the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiayatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) to float a new regional party has pushed the factions within the AGP to sort out their differences. A united party will also have more bargaining power when it comes to working out the seat sharing formula with its coalition partner and the major constituent-the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Poll strategists in the BJP are aware of the 2016 poll realities that it was the combined vote shares of the ruling coalitions that helped them to come to power. As the AASU and the AJYCP played an influential role in change of guard at Dispur in the last assembly polls, formation of a new regional party at the behest of the two organizations has the potential to pose a tough challenge to the AGP on the questions of core ideologies of regionalism. The 2021 polls will pose tough challenge of retaining its core supporters who believe that regionalism is the answer to key issues of linguistic and cultural identities and existence of Assamese and other indigenous communities. A shift in loyalties of these core supporters to the new regional party may prove the ensuing assembly polls to be the end of the road for the AGP. The BJP-AGP and Bodoland People's Front (BPF) coalition came to power riding a strong anti-incumbency wave against the previous Congress-regime. Dissidence within the Congress was a contributing factor to the anti-incumbency wave. In 2021 assembly polls, however, the incumbent ruling coalition has to defend its own governance and policies. The formation of the new regional parties centres around the key policies of the BJP-led governments at the Centre as well as in the state on implementation of core clauses of the Assam Accord and allegations of dilution of the core clauses through enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. While the BJP's position is clear on these issues, the AGP leadership is divided on their approach to these issues. The latest unity move of the regional party will, therefore, put the spotlight on these issues and differences among the factions on the approaches. They will be under pressure to hammer out a united approach on the key political issues instead of ignoring the differences. Proposed formation of the new regional party presents another possibility for the AGP. Its dependence on the BJP for retaining the seats won in 2016 will increase unless it strengthens its own party organization. The two opposition parties -- the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) -- reaching an understanding for electoral tie-up and pushing for a grand alliance of opposition parties including new regional parties proposed to be formed also presents new political realities in the state. It brings an opportunity for the AGP to bargain with its coalition partner BJP for more seats, provided the regional party is able to end factionalism. The 2016 assembly poll outcome was such that despite the BJP was short of the magic number by four seats neither the AGP nor the BPF could become the kingmakers. This time around both the regional parties are hoping to become kingmakers if the verdict throws up a hung assembly. The BJP won 60 seats, the AGP in 14 and the BPF won 12 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly in 2016. The Congress won 25 and the AIUDF won 13 seats and an independent candidate won one seat. The political situation in the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) is still fluid. The BJP has announced its plans to contest the elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) alone even though its alliance with the BPF at the state level and in government still continues. The BJP's decision to go alone is an attempt to test the popularity of the BPF and the United People's Party, Liberal so that it can chose its electoral ally for the Assembly polls between these two influential political parties of BTAD. If the AGP factions are able to end their differences, then it might not sound good news for some ticket aspirants within BJP who were eyeing some of the seats won by the regional party in 2016. A clearer picture will emerge only after the talk of formation of the new regional party takes a concrete shape. Formation of a new regional party at the behest of the AASU and AJYCP might turn out to be a blessing for the AGP to present itself before its workers and supporters as a united force. All eyes are now on the 35-year-old regional party.

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