DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
The grand alliance in Bihar between Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) and Laloo Prasad Yadav’s RJD has proved that right political arithmetic can help beat any rising force in the game of numbers. Inspired by the Bihar results, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the face of the Assam Congress, has started talking of a ‘grand understanding’ among parties in the State, if not an alliance, to beat the BJP in 2016. Gogoi attended Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in ceremony in Pat on Friday at the latter’s persol invitation. But, the attention on Gogoi got diluted a bit with Nitish Kumar also extending a persol invitation to Maula Badruddin Ajmal, president of the AIUDF, who is one of the key political players in Assam.
The question now is whether the Bihar example could inspire the Assam Congress enough to publicly approach the only major party seemingly available for such a tie-up, which is the AIUDF. Of course, if one is to believe the public posturing of AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, then such an alliance is unlikely because the Maula has been insisting his party would stand firm in its ‘anti-BJP, anti-Congress’ position. But why should one believe anyone in a poll-bound political battlefield where it appears as if it is going to be a battle between the BJP and the rest. Indications that the preparation in Assam is for a battle between the BJP and the rest has been given out by none other than Chief Minister Gogoi who has been saying there can be an ‘understanding’ between like-minded parties to defeat the BJP.
I would find it hard to predict a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the AIUDF. After all, Maula Ajmal, cannot easily go back on his ‘anti-BJP, anti-Congress’ stand because he has a certain band of followers in districts like Dhubri- Barpeta, Goalpara, Morigaon, gaon and others who regard him as a religious leader who would stick to his word and not renege on his promises. At the same time, he has been meeting Gogoi and his key loyalists in recent weeks, heightening speculations that some poll related understanding is brewing. The bottom-line is that instead of an open alliance like in Bihar, that actually worked, Assam could see hush ties between political parties. This could mean the Congress may not field candidates against the AIUDF in certain seats and vice versa so that the anti-BJP vote is not split. The limited purpose of such a hush deal would be to defeat the BJP.
Now, with both Gogoi and Badruddin Ajmal having received the persol attention of Nitish Kumar, can the hugely popular Bihar Chief Minister help stitch together an alliance in Assam? A grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) can be ruled out because it is unlikely the Congress-AIUDF-AGP or the Congress-AIUDF-BPF would get together to jointly fight the polls with the BJP as their common target. So, the question is can Nitish Kumar help in the forging of an anti-BJP alliance in Assam? The answer can be attempted with a question—can anyone help achieve an open pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the AIUDF. It is difficult to say the least. So what could Nitish Kumar do, if at all the JD (U) is interested in Assam? Well, the JD (U) may decide to back or put up a few candidates in Assam to corner the sizeable Bihari or Hindi-speaking votes in a few constituencies. If that happens, the sole purpose again will be to stch these votes away from the BJP.
Predictions are predictions, and, therefore, one more prediction—the Assam Assembly poll campaign in 2016 may be bereft of positive agenda of political parties. It may actually be an attempt by the BJP and its allies on one side, the Congress and its open allies and the not-so-open ones on the other to corner each other. If that happens, the voters will have to decide for themselves what are the causes dear to Assam and its people that need to be addressed. Once those issues are identified, the voters will have to take the call to elect whoever they think could deliver. The ball, as usual, is in the court of the electorate. And yes, democracy has no place for any intolerant behaviour. And, there are people who can neither be supporters of the Congress or the BJP, but can have strong views of their own.