DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
Assam is witnessing unprecedented inner-party bickering this election season. It all started once the electoral alliance between the BJP and the AGP became fil. As part of this tie-up, the BJP left just 24 seats for the AGP to contest on its own in the 126-member State Assembly. For many in the AGP, including its founder-president and two-time chief minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, this was ‘not an honourable alliance.’ After all, the AGP is a party that had been in power in Assam twice, spanning nearly a decade. There were sections in the BJP, too, who thought it was not necessary to have left 24 seats to the AGP, which this section see as a party on the decline. BJP ticket hopefuls in these 24 seats were clearly upset as well.
The difference this time is that supporters of potential candidates belonging to both the BJP and the AGP took to the streets denouncing the alliance between the two parties. Offices of both parties were ransacked, effigies burnt and there was open revolt. The AGP suffered to the extent of a split with veterans like former minister Thaneswar Boro forming a breakaway faction called the AGP Anchalikatabadi Mancha and putting up candidates. The BJP, too, faced mild tremors with a small section coming together under a new formation called the Trimool BJP, forcing BJP leaders to threaten tough action against such partymen.
When the ruling Congress announced its first list of candidates, the dissatisfaction was quick, and revolt, rather fast. The Congress actually went back on its promise that new faces would be fielded this time. When it did, it turned out that in seven to eight constituencies, the party has put up either the son, daughter, daughter-in-law, or spouse of the sitting MLA. And in a few seats where actual new faces were put up, they were ucceptable to a large number of Congress workers who took to the street in protest. There were surprises too. For example, Sarat Saikia who won the Mahmora seat thrice in a row was denied ticket and so was Amiya Gogoi in Duliajan. Both Saikia and Amiya Gogoi openly stated the candidates put up in place of them would not win.
There have been strong rumblings of dissent within the AIUDF. Two of its MLAs who had parted ways more than a year ago have been allocated Congress tickets this time. That aside, agitated party workers, upset with ticket distribution, have been protesting, some even outside the residence of AIUDF chief Maula Badruddin Ajmal in Hojai. One of the charges faced is the ‘dystic rule’ of the party by the Ajmals. Maula Ajmal and his brother Sirajuddin are Lok Sabha MPs and two of Maula Ajmal’s sons are MLAs.
What is significant is the level of the revolt among those who regard themselves as ‘victims’ of ticket distribution politics in their respective parties. The decision of leaders like Thaneswar Boro of the AGP to shift and contest under a new banner or that of Sarat Saikia of the Congress who is keen to move over to the BJP but contest as an independent or Congress’ Amiya Gogoi considering to be in the fray as an independent are rather radical moves and demonstrate the lack of tolerance of politicians these days. One gets an impression as if these politicians are saying they are not bothered about any ideology simply because they are professiols!
The key question is whether a sitting MLA is bound to be allocated the ticket to contest a seat again and again. What about opportunity to newer politicians of the party concerned? Are they not going to get any chance and wait for the sitting MLA to retire from politics before he or she can take over? The answer perhaps lies in the fact that power politics is much too tempting to be given up so easily. They seem not bothered about whether they are going to work for the people at the end of the day.