Even as dates for election to the 15th Assam Legislative Assembly were announced by the Election Commission on Friday, an opinion poll conducted by IANS C Voter has revealed that Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal's popularity is at a comfortable 43.3 per cent, which gives clear indication that the BJP-led alliance in the state has the highest chance of winning – or rather sweeping – the ensuing election. In sharp contrast to Sonowal, about 26.4 per cent of respondents have favoured Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi as having chances of becoming the Chief Minister, which also means that the Congress-AIUDF combine has a little over half chance of what the BJP-AGP-UPPL combine at the moment has. By bringing Gaurav Gogoi into the opinion poll, IANS C Voter has also given an indication that the Congress-AIUDF would be able to win some seats only if the alliance projects Gogoi Junior as its CM candidate. This however does not appear to go well in the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, which is reportedly a house divided, with three different senior leaders – Ripun Bora, Debabrata Saikia and Pradyut Bordoloi – already forming their respective coteries or lobbies. Additionally, in the event of the AIUDF winning an equal number of seats as the Congress, and if by any chance the two parties together reach the halfway mark, then a situation will definitely arise in which Maulana Badruddin Ajmal will start calling the shots and dictating the terms. Now the question arises as to why has Sarbananda Sonowal emerged as the most favoured leader who has the maximum possibility of winning the ensuing election. There are several answers to this crucial question. One, the Sonowal government stands out as the first government in Assam since 1947 during whose 5-year tenure Assam has not witnessed any communal, ethnic or linguistic tension, not to speak of any flare-up. Two, it was only during Sonowal's tenure that numerous developmental and connectivity projects which were gathering dust or were progressing at a snail's pace, were completed, thus bringing about significant allround improvement. Three, this is the first government in Assam after that of Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi's which has no record of internal dissension or dissidence. Four, it is for the first time in recent memory that a Chief Minister had taken a very bold stand against corruption and had literally cleaned up the augean stable that the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) had been reduced to by the previous Congress regime. Five, Sonowal holds the unique record of being a rare Chief Minister who had wonderful relations with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on one side, and with his deputy Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma on the other. The list in fact can go on. But then, with the election scenario expected to hotten up in the next couple of weeks, it will now be for the opposition – the Congress-AIUDF combine, Akhil Gogoi's Raijor Dal, and Lurinjyoti Gogoi's Asam Jatiya Parishad – to prove that the IANS C Voter pre-election opinion poll is incorrect, which probably is an impossible task. The election will become exciting only if the opposition can give a tough and close fight, which is possible only when the larger chunk of the opposition is united and has a common minimum programme and not just a common agenda of dislodging the incumbent Chief Minister. But then, one cannot rule out the possibility of dissension among a section of BJP leaders, as also in the AGP. While it is true that some of the inefficient MLAs of the BJP deserve to be denied renomination, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) definitely has a vote-base which is strong enough to ensure victory of the BJP-AGP-UPPL alliance, provided the three parties work out a good strategy of vote-sharing and vote-transfer. There are several constituencies where the BJP cannot ensure victory without strategic support of the AGP. Likewise, there are several constituencies where the AGP cannot win without BJP support. It is going to be an acid test for Sarbananda Sonowal as to how he brings in new faces in certain constituencies without causing any major dissension. Two such constituencies are Guwahati (East) and Dispur.
An opinion poll conducted by IANS C Voter has revealed that Sonowal’s popularity is at a comfortable 43.3 per cent, which gives a clear indication that the BJP-led alliance in the state has the highest chance of winning.