DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
After the massive verdict in favour of AAP in the just concluded Assembly polls in Delhi, there is enough curiosity about the possible voting behaviour of the aam admi in Assam. Will Assam's aam admi vote yet again for the ruling Congress or change track and go for the BJP? Will there be a hung Assembly, and if so, which party could bag the largest number of seats and who could it align with to form the next Government? Will Maula Badruddin Ajmal’s family-heavy AIUDF be restricted to 20 odd seats or is it going to cross the 30 mark and play a critical role in Government formation? What about the regiol AGP? Can it break free from its loss-facing phase and put up a good performance? What are the chances of a totally new regiol force emerging on the scene, a ‘third force’ that is both anti-Congress and anti-BJP?
The political situation in Assam is hazy to say the least, but there is no doubt that 2016 is going to throw up many possibilities and surprises. One is aware of the BJP’s Mission Assam, which is an attempt by the party to cash in on the Modi magic and wrest victory in the State. The party’s recent win in the Municipal polls has enthused leaders and workers alike. The reality, however, is that there is interl squabbles within the Assam State BJP and indications to this effect have come from the public statements of several of its leaders. That aside, the party will have to come up with at least 100 candidates and field them (if not a full 126, which is the strength of the Assam Assembly) if it has to win a minimum of 64 seats to form the Government on its own. That will call for a BJP wave in the State.
Well, considering the manner in which the Congress Government under the leadership of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is functioning, a BJP wave could well appear on the scene in the days ahead. That, of course, will require two things—further deterioration in the quality of delivery and governce by Team Gogoi, and a halt to more flip-flops in the BJP central leadership’s decisions and statements on Assam. The Congress will harp on the Modi Government’s decision to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement that would see India handing over some of Assam’s land to Bangladesh as part of the exchange of enclaves between the two countries as well as the BJP Government’s apparent pro-dam stand. Besides, the Congress will also definitely talk about the BJP’s bombastic promise to free Assam of ‘Bangladeshis’ immediately after May 16, 2014 (the day the Lok Sabha results were announced). Well, by the time Assam goes to the polls, the Modi Government will have completed two years in office and its ability to deliver on its promises will be well tested. That will impact on the voting behaviour unlike in 2014 when Modi was urging voters to give him and his party a chance.
If the BJP fails to get a minimum of 45 seats, its attempt to grab the reins of the Government in Assam could be difficult. In case the Congress’ 2011 Assembly tally of 78 is reduced by half or more, it would still have a chance to take a shot at Government formation by aligning with the AIUDF. All that Maula Badruddin Ajmal needs to say is that they are an anti-Congress force no doubt but has been forced to partner the Congress to prevent the BJP from coming to power. That gives the Congress an edge in so far as Government formation is concerned. What if the AIUDF is to get more seats than the Congress? That will tilt the balance in Maula Ajmal’s favour and could bring about a drastic change in Assam’s electoral and governmental power dymics.
The AGP, despite its desperate bid to generate that lost spark, is unlikely to be much of a factor if it goes solo. And, it cannot align with the BJP anymore, nor does the saffron party want to do business with it. That leaves the fray to the Congress and the BJP unless, of course, a ‘third force’ emerges on the scene. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) didn’t show much of a promise in Assam during 2014 and if one is to take the thinking aloud by top AAP leaders seriously, the party would like to concentrate on Delhi rather than venturing out to try its luck outside. Still, it is likely the AAP would join the contest in Assam in 2016.
The individual or group all eyes are on certainly is activist Akhil Gogoi and his Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS). Akhil Gogoi has indicated the KMSS might trigger the formation of a ‘third force’ in Assam as an altertive political entity ahead of the 2016 polls and if that happens, he would be playing a leading role in that scheme of things. The KMSS, in fact, is organizing a convention in Sivasagar soon to deliberate on issues critical to Assam. A KMSS-generated ‘third force’ has the potential to stir the imagition of the masses. Besides, the KMSS has a following and has been taking up issues critical to the people at the grassroots, issues that have been skirted by mainstream political parties for so long.
It must also be noted that going by the public pronouncements of the KMSS and Akhil Gogoi, the group does not discrimite between communities and groups based on caste or religion. That is a big plus for the KMSS. Yes, a section of the middle class might like to dub Akhil Gogoi & Co as ‘archists’ just as many dubbed Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP as ‘archists’ in Delhi. But, the key in Assam this time will be a viable altertive, and a brand new entity is perhaps something that can enthuse people and change the voting dymics.