Political quandary for Assam voters in 2016
By J P Rajkhowa
General Elections for electing the peoples’ representatives for the 126 –member Assam Legislative assembly (ALA), are not far away now, as the Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC), Hari Shankar Brahma, indicated at a recent press conference, in Guwahati that the elections will be held in May 2016. We feel happy to know through the media, that, the Election Commission of India (ECI) headed by the CEC, has taken all possible measures to filize an absolutely correct, fault- free ‘voters’ list’ for Assam. That would certainly mean that, the List would not include mes of illegal foreigners- Bangladeshis in particular, as had been the case in most such Lists, in the past and that, mes of Indian citizens only, would find place in the Revised Voters Lists or Electoral Rolls.We, the indigenous people of Assam and genuine citizens of India are primarily concerned with a fault- free List, as assured by the CEC; we are not bothered as to how that would be ensured, as the ECI, with its huge network across the country and a strong ‘data bank’, has its own ways of doing their job pretty well.
After visit to the State by the CEC, we have another great news, and that is, in the are of politics, the birth of a new political party, under the leadership of RTI activist, KMSS leader and a relentless fighter against ‘mega dams’ -the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project in particular, AkhilGogoi. After a three- day long brain- storming session of KMSS activists and farmers from across the State, held in Dibrugarh district, which was also graced by the anti- corruption crusader cum freedom fighter An Hazare, who did not object to the formation of a new political party, but did express reservation about AkhilGogoi contesting election, with the purpose of capturing political power, AkhilGogoi and company decided to float a new political party, though Gogoi did not clearly announce that, he would not contest the 2016 elections. The new party has been med as GaMuktiSangram Assam (GAMUSA), which would basically espouse the cause of the farmers, landless labourers and other people including those settled in the ‘char areas’ as we can make out from his long and arduous visits to many ‘car’ areas of the State, demand for application of article 371 A of the Constitution for Assam as applied to the State of galand, for protection of the rights of the indigenous people, especially the ownership and transfer of land and its resources etc.
Prima- facie, GAMUSA is poised to be a Regiol Party targeting the have- not’s in the society, comprising farmers, agricultural labourers, adhiars or sae- croppers, tea garden labourers, ex- tea garden community, the Adivasis, all members and activists of KrishakMuktiSangramParishad (KMSS) though KMSS would continue to maintain its separate identity, all encroachers on government land in Guwahati and other urban areas, possibly the immigrant encroachers on Government lands as also lands of Sattras etc., already encroached. This last presumption has been drawn from the fact of AkhilGogoi’s extensive visit to the ‘car areas’and his or KMSS’s silence on the issue of detection and deportation of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, under the Assam Accord. If they have made their stand clear on that like most organizations, including those protecting the cause of the ‘illegal Bangladeshis’, I am not aware of that. Now that, GAMUSA has been formed, the electorates of Assam would have another choice to make for choosing a party to vote in year 2016.
The existing political parties in the fray for the 2016 elections to the ALA, who are quite serious to woo the voters and get as many seats as possible, in order to either form a government or to have the position of ‘king maker’ or to create the situation of a ‘hung ALA’ as also consequent scope for ‘horse trading’ are all known to the people.To recapitulate, in order of their existing strength in the ALA, they are- Congress, AIUDF, BPF, AGP, BJP, CPM & other left parties including ASDC, Trimul Congress (TMC) and also other parties not having any seat in the ALA, i.e., BPPF, Samajwadi party, etc. Now, with the coming up of GAMUSA, as a strong contender, the existing political equations would have to undergo change, depending onwhich side (s) the wind blows. While Congress under the leadership of Torun Gogoi (Gogoi has publicly claimed that, he would lead the campaign for2016 on behalf of the Congress), has claimed that, it would be returned to power again, this is not going to be an easy task, considering that, it would not have BPF as an ally and that, it has dissenter group with key players- a couple of powerful former ministers. Even the seats presently occupied by its Muslim ministers / MLAs do not appear safe enough, in view of massive corruption charges against them, apart from the ‘aggressive’ policy followed by AIUDF leaders to capture about 40 to 50 seats in the ALA. Obviously, they could do that, mainly by luring away Muslim leaders from the Congress, as other parties hardly have MLAs from the Muslims.
While the BJP, swayed by the rendraModi –wave, in the run- up to the last LokSabha Elections 2014, declared a target of 84 seats to win, in the 2016 Elections to ALA, it is very unlikely, that, they would be able to win even half the targeted seats, if the present trend of anti- BJP campaigns go on in the State, and gain further momentum, during the coming months. All the anti- BJP political parties and other organizations, KMSS included, have made it a habit to criticize the rendraModi- led government for all the ills facing the State, irrespective of the fact that, many issues and problems are created by the State leadership of the BJP as well as the Congress government of Assam, e.g., for spiralling price rise of essential commodities, it’s the Assam government, not the Centre, for creating artificial scarcity and not raiding the hoarders and black marketers. But, the common man is given an impression, that, it’s Modi, who promised ‘acche din’but has given ‘bure din’ to the people. Land transfer to Bangladesh was the decision of the Congress at the Centre, which, Modi’s government couldn’t undo due to intertiol / diplomatic compulsions, but the blame goes to rendraModi and SarbandaSonowal- people are not there to defend them.
Majuli was not included for development as ‘world heritage site’, no central scheme was declared for flood and erosion magement in Assam, the earlier announcement for taking up small hydel projects, instead of ‘mega dams’ seems to have been past history; double broad gauge railway lines to Dibrugarh / Tinsukia not yet announced; even the promise of providing gainful employment to the youths also forgotten, as the NF Railways continued recruiting people from outside the region and no special scheme declared for the nearly 2.5 million educated unemployed.Similarly, the non- scheduling of the six ethnic communities, which has happened due to the ‘negative’ policy of the Congress- led UPA, has become a legacy unfulfilled by BJP-led NDA. But, BJP still has a good chance of capturing a good number of seats, provided it tries to fulfil its ‘pre- LokSabha election’ promises and implement the ‘Assam- specific manifesto’ and go for workable seat- sharing with the BPF and AGP. GAMUSA is unlikely to join hands with Congress, BJP and AIUDF though its position in regard to AGP is not clear. However, it has to be kept in mind that, GAMUSA could cause erosion in the support- base of AGP, which has again been facing ‘leadership’ crisis.
In Assam, the left parties and other smaller tiol as well as local parties are unlikely to improve their position, as they do not have ‘state specific’ and ‘people centred’ agenda and also have leadership- vacuum’. GAMUSA could play a crucial role in government- formation, in 2016, if it mages to win seats in the support centres of KMSS, which would surely volunteer campaign for GAMUSA and also wean away voters from the bastions of AIUDF, which only it would be capable of doing, not the Congress or AGP. However, GAMUSA is unlikely to have much support from the urban middle class as well as the elite sections, unless, AkhilGogoi changes his mode of attack on his adversaries, including Prime minister rendraModi, Chief minister Torun Gogoi, BJP president Amit Shah etc., from one of ‘scolding and abusing’ to dignified ‘bashing’. Next couple of months till elections are formally declared by the ECI, are going to be very interesting and this time, going by present trend of developments, ‘sweeping victory’ is unlikely to be on a platter.
In our Sunday, March 22, 2015 issue, the article authored by JP Rajkhowa titled “Controversy over defining the ‘Indigenous’ people of Assam!” carried an error in Para 4, line 15 where the year was mistakenly typed as 2015. It should be 2005. The error is regretted.