DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
The BJP in Assam has begun engineering a grand ethnic alliance in the State ahead of the elections in 2016, prompting the beleaguered Congress to cosy up to the AIUDF. That the BJP is going to continue with its aggressive posturing became evident last week when its leaders got several Congress members of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council defect to its fold, bringing down the Congress-ruled Council. The BJP has now staked claim to rule the Council. Almost simultaneously, the BJP maged to prevent the Congress from assuming power in the Tiwa Autonomous Council despite the former emerging as the largest single party, winning 15 of the 30 seats. The Congress’ strength went down to 12 after three of its elected members joined the BJP. The BJP backed a local front, the Oikya Manch, which had bagged ten seats, and roped in two AGP members, raising the strength of the Manch combine to 18.
The BJP’s grabbing of or becoming a part of the ruling dispensation in two tribal autonomous councils in Assam ahead of the State elections is expected to boost the morale of the saffron party workers. Besides, the influential Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), the party in power at the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), is almost aligned with the BJP. Its leader and chief of the BTC, Hagrama Mahilary, recently met BJP tiol president Amit Shah in New Delhi. The two discussed means to work together and side with each other in Assam. The BPF has a strength of 12 in the 126-member Assam Assembly, and is a major political force in the four districts within BTC as well as in other areas with a sizeable Bodo population. That Hagrama Mahilary is working with a design was evident when the BPF took the lead in bringing together nine tribal organizations into a common platform called the United People’s Front (UPF) last month. The UPF is keen to contest 30 Assembly seats.
If Hagrama Mahilary is moving closer to the BJP, having already met Amit Shah, it is possible the UPF, too, could side with the BJP when the time comes. More than the organizations which are constituents of the UPF, what is important to note is that it comprise some of the most well-known tribal leaders in Assam. For example, the 12-member executive committee of the UPF has been formed with Hagrama Mohilary as the president, Dr Jayanta Rongpi as the working president, Biswajit Daimary as the vice president, Ranoj Pegu as the general secretary, Kampa Borgoyari as the spokesperson, and Bhupen Pegu, Jatson Dey and Tankeswar Rabha as secretaries. It is clear the UPF has some key Bodo, Karbi, Mising, Rabha and other leaders in its fold.
In this backdrop, it was tural to find Chief Minister and veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi shed his ego and hold talks with AIUDF chief Maula Badruddin Ajmal. It is another matter that Gogoi, during the peak of his party’s success, had refused to recognise the AIUDF leader, asking the oft-quoted question, ‘who is Badruddin Ajmal?’ The Congress has only the AIUDF to fall back upon. And although the AIUDF does not have much of a problem supporting either the Congress or the BJP, the saffron party in Assam, as I have said in my earlier column, cannot have any truck with Ajmal & Co. for tactical reasons. However, if we have to talk or think of tural allies in the current political landscape in Assam, we have to think of the Congress and the AIUDF. The two parties only have to say they have come together to keep the BJP at bay!
One thing that is becoming clear with the fast turn of events is this—that political parties have no ideology in the true sense of the term. Look at the BJP in Assam—it has embraced people from the Congress, the AGP, the AASU, AJYCP, and the ethnic groups. A party desperate to stch a victory can do anything. But what about those people who have been representing regiol forces or jatiya sangathans (tiol organizations)? What about the ideology of all those AGP and AASU members who until recently were lambasting tiol parties and insisted they had a regiol identity and nothing else? Well, the BJP welcoming and embracing Congressmen and women is more than interesting or significant. Truly, politics makes strange bedfellows!