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Some musings on Assam Assembly Elections 2021

Two important pieces of news that are under focus in the media bear great significance for Assam in the context of forthcoming Assembly elections.

Assam Assembly Elections 2021

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  12 March 2021 5:56 AM GMT

Udayan Hazarika

(The writer can be reached at udayanhazarika@hotmail.com)

Two important pieces of news that are under focus in the media bear great significance for Assam in the context of forthcoming Assembly elections. The first is in the form of an election gossip spreading like wildfire is that in the last meetings at Dhekiajuli and Dhemaji, while addressing the public rally, PM Modi did not mention anything about his blue eyed boy Sri Sonowal like he did in almost every meetings during the last general elections to the Assembly in 2016. Secondly, for the CM's followers, it is perhaps disappointing to note that the party has declined to announce the name of any candidate for CM's berth till the election is over and thereafter the BJP Parliamentary Board will take a decision. This obviously indicates that choosing the leadership has been an issue in the ruling party and this time it will not be as smooth as it was in 2016. Both the news items indeed have good contents to encourage the H.B. Sarma (HBS) camp. It is now possible that if the party wins the majority seats in the election and comes to a position to form Government, the name of HBS might surely figure in the discussion of the Parliamentary Board while deciding the name of the leader of the BJP Legislature Party. The fact that HBS's possibility to be chosen as the leader of the BJP Legislature Party is fairly good for the reason that most of the BJP candidates in the fray are his known followers and unless these candidates win the elections, there cannot be any question of getting majority of seats by the BJP. Apart from this, there are also other factors that may come up for discussion and prominent among these may be the performances of both the leaders. Of late, there have also been allegations that the CM's office has a role in the SI recruitment scam and the CM is criticised for advising the Chairman of the Police Recruitment Board to resign before he could be brought under the enquiry procedure. Allegations are also levelled against him for his indifferent attitude towards some crucial issues concerning the State most of which had to be taken care of by the Finance Minister. Even in matters related to home affairs, during the CAA agitation, almost all the public statements were issued by Shri H.B. Sarma.

Under the above backdrop, one most probable proposition is that H.M. Amit Shah in all probable cases will strongly favour retaining HBS for managing the affairs of the State and if necessary Sonowal will be shifted back to Delhi. This is one probable solution in case a deadlock emerges while deciding about the CM's Chair. Shah will definitely have in his mind the Lok Sabha election in 2023 which is only two and a half years away and will definitely attempt to extract all possible benefits of having HBS at the helm of affairs which PM Modi will probably not interfere. The vice versa will not be operational as Shah is not in favour of taking HBS to Delhi (recall the happenings during last general elections to Lok Sabha 2019 when the Delhi advised him not to contest) and at the same time a ministry headed by Sonowal without the presence of HBS is perhaps unthinkable. One thing is very clear at present is that HBS is not willing to continue in the same status at No-2 position even if the BJP comes to power and in course of time that will be the bone of contention.

Let us have a look at the prospects of the BJP in the elections-21. The surfacing of two regional parties one after another initially has raised high hopes among the people of the State. But gradually the hope is diminishing in the passage of time with the unfolding of the attitude of the regional leaders towards the likeminded political parties. Lack of their ability to comprehending the situation and reading the minds of the public has come as barrier to their aspiration of becoming a political leader. Such attitudinal problem is inevitable in view of their inexperience in the field for which they could not come out with open mind while handling real political issues including dealing with national political parties. Their immaturity in understanding the political situation was exposed when they refused to tie up with the likeminded political parties on the issues of crucial importance. In fact, they forgot to keep their goal at the forefront for which they are originated leaving the subsidiary ideals at back seat. Their refusal to become a part of the grand alliance would only lead to misunderstanding giving an impression that they have an understanding with the party in power in some way or other. It is simple arithmetic that fielding of their candidates against the alliance would mean neither their candidates could win nor that of the alliance's. They are yet to prove their ability as leader and consolidate into an organisation of force. For winning an election it is necessary to show off the organisational force. Their existence in no way matters in this election because neither there is any type of wave like that of the wave of 1985 or the Modi wave of 2016 nor there is any anti-establishment wave. The truth is that people like to vote for Modi but the CAA is standing on their way. They appear to be in two minds and neither BJP nor the Congress alliance could capitalise this situation and convince them of their agenda.

The AGP although is fielding 26 candidates in the fray, they will have to remain content with consolation prizes of wining seats not exceeding six. Their political activities, especially their attempt to clinging on to the power by no means since last few years, were inimical to the political ideology of a regional party. This led to the distortion of their image in the minds of public and they have no longer remained a political force. They have surrendered to the will of the BJP. In the past, they have shown how they could walk past the wishes of the people, when one of their MPs had voted for CAA in the Parliament. So for the people of Assam, the image of the AGP has diminished greatly and in fact it is because of some individuals who still claim the confidence of some voters win the elections on their own image.

On the whole, with the situation as it stands today, one will tempt to conclude that the election has already gone in favour of the BJP. It will definitely be difficult for the ruling party to get the magic number 64 – the margin of simple majority, but 45 – 48 will be an easy target for them with 8-11 seats coming from its allies and the remaining shortfall, if any, will be bridged calling the two regional parties' to their fold for a coalition. After all, the two regional parties have never declared that they will not make any post-poll understanding with the BJP. Here while counting the number of seats, only those which have the probability of wining by a margin of more than 8,000 votes have been counted as margin less than 8,000 may go either way depending on the immediate circumstances.

On the other hand, with the voters' split, Congress will hardly make it to 38 or 40 but its ally AIUDF and BPF will contribute significantly to make the tally to go up to 58-60 for the alliance. But there will be none to back them up thereafter. However, if somehow grand alliance makes it to the majority level, then perhaps the most probable candidate for the CM position will be Gaurav Gogoi – a person having more acceptability than any other Congress leaders as of now. This will require one vacant position for him to contest a bye-election. This however is a rare proposition.

The situation as emerges now clearly reflects the picture of a hung assembly. Smaller political units and independent candidates will have a say in forming the government – meaning that there will be horse trading. The regional parties taking part in the elections will be just a rehearsal for their future prospect as it will be hard for them to get seats in double digits. So trading alone in the floor of the House and contesting issues such as CAA will be an arduous task for them.

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