DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
The ruling Congress in Assam seems to have suddenly recovered some lost ground with major anti–Congress forces like the BJP and the AGP failing to unite for a joint fight to unseat the Tarun Gogoi Government in the State Assembly polls due in about two months. True, the BJP has already forged an alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), but the party that now runs the Bodoland Territorial Council is not a pan–Assam party, and has, therefore, a limited influence, say in about 20 of the 126 seats in the Assam Assembly.
With the failure of the AGP and the BJP to come together, there would be three major anti–Congress forces in the fray, the third being the Maula Badruddin Ajmal–led AIUDF. If one keeps the BPF aside—it has strong influence in about 20 seats—the BJP, AGP and the AIUDF, will fight for the non–Congress votes in the remaining 100–odd seats. Even then, the BJP cannot expect to put up a real fight in about 30 of the 100–odd seats because they are strongholds of the AIUDF.
If the alliance did not take place, it is not because the leaders of these two parties—the BJP and the AGP—were against it. In fact, a strong section of leaders in both these parties were working overtime to stitch an alliance, but the grassroot workers of both the BJP and the AGP were against any poll pact. The BJP workers opposed to the alliance had strong reasons to be against such a pact because they have been working hard for years under the saffron banner to taste power in Assam. These workers did not want to sacrifice any of the Assembly seats to the AGP and lose their own identity. Similarly, the AGP workers, too, have been asking the party to fight the polls alone this time because the 2016 Assembly polls are considered as the last chance for the regiol party to begin the process of a comeback and stay afloat by bettering its performance.
In this scerio, when grassroot workers of both the BJP and the AGP are bent of fighting it out on the ground, the odds appear to be in favour of the Congress, making a desperate bid to hold on to power and clinch a fourth successive victory. However, one is aware of the considerable anti–incumbency factor that could hit the Congress hard. The party had won 79 seats in 2011, but its strength has come down to 69 now with ten of its MLAs having defected to the BJP. At one stage, the Congress did speak to the AIUDF on the possibility of an ‘understanding’ ahead of the polls to tackle a seemingly resurgent BJP. But, both parties later denied such moves after confirming the meetings, obviously because that could deprive them of options to manoeuvre at the right time.
If one goes by simple logic, the hardcore Congress votes are expected to remain intact while the non–Congress votes would have to be shared by the BJP, AGP, AIUDF and the BPF, the four major parties in the fray. The Congress’ main challenger, the BJP, spent time talking to the AGP, a move that didn’t materialize but instead led to a disturbing spectacle for the party, of its workers demonstrating in public against an alliance with the moribund regiol party. On its part, the Congress would like to see the AGP put up as many candidates possible across Assam so that votes gets divided between the regiol party and the BJP.
Of course, one is aware of possibilities after the poll verdict comes. If the AGP winners (irrespective of the numbers) can side with the BJP–BPF combine, the AIUDF can also cosy up to the Congress. The BJP–BPF–AGP can then say that such a combition is needed to keep the Congress out of power, the Congress too can take the AIUDF along and say it was necessary to keep the saffron party away. If Assam has to be denied such a murky post–poll drama, that has value only for the media, the voters must come up with a decisive verdict. But, this time, that may well be elusive.