DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
The street protests by grass-root workers and supporters of the AGP against the alliance with the BJP has found echo with former Chief Minister and party’s founder-president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta categorically stating that he is not happy with the ture of the alliance. “We had been in power twice, and, therefore, there should have been an honourable alliance. Leaving us only 24 seats to contest is unfair and I am not surprised at the protests by our workers,” Mahanta told this writer in an interview. He sought to completely dissociate himself with any talks within his party over the issue of an alliance with the BJP.
After much flip-flops, the AGP plunged into the BJP fold, taking up the saffron party’s offer of 24 seats, a move that would soon rattle the party’s leadership. After all, the regiol party has been out of power for 15 years in a row, and its workers were hoping to see better days in view of the perceived anti-incumbency of the ruling Congress. Now that they have realised their leaders would be contesting in only 24 seats and would be lucky if they win half of those seats, the workers and supporters have become disillusioned. Elections 2016 being seen by many in the regiol party as their last battle for survival, a section of AGP leaders have split and have formed the AGP Anchalikatabadi Mancha. They are planning to contest in more than 50 seats, a move that party leaders, including Prafulla Mahanta, admits would go against the idea of consolidation of anti-Congress votes.
In fact, the BJP appears to be moving forward with a strategy of hijacking, or to use a better word, co-opting the regiol forces in Assam. It has struck an alliance with the AGP, the flag-bearer of regiolism in the State, the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), the Tiwa Jatiya Aikyo Mancha and the Rabha Jouto Mancha. But, the revolt within the AGP has certainly come as a jolt and has disturbed the BJP’s game plan. The very idea of stitching up an alliance to prevent a split in the anti-Congress votes has come to a nought with the split in the AGP. Moreover, the BPF also faces a new rival, the United People’s Party (UPP), led by former MP and former ABSU president U.G.Brahma. To add to the trouble, the UPP has entered into an alliance with the ruling Congress.
There are now apprehensions that the Congress could have the last laugh and could even directly or indirectly back newer formations. Not just the AGP has split, even some BJP leaders are planning to contest as Independents after the seats they were hoping to contest have gone in favour of the AGP. The BJP will be contesting 90 of the 126 Assembly seats on its own and leave the rest to its allies. Now, one needs to factor in the fact that around 30 of these 90 seats are strongholds of the AIUDF. Therefore, to reach the magic figure of 64 in the Assam Assembly, the BJP’s allies would have to perform well. It is in this context that the performance of parties like the AGP and the BPF are going to be critical for the BJP.
Challenges for the BJP, the key contender for power, are many. And questions are being asked as to whether the alliance with the AGP is actually an alliance among the leaders and not the workers of the two parties!