The alliance with the AIUDF shattered Congress dream to capture power in Assam, though the grand old party performed better this time as compared to 2016, when it was defeated by the BJP after 15 years, experts and political commentators feel.
Political analysts categorically said that the Congress paid the price for the coalition with the Muslim-based body, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), in Assam.
Social activist and political commentator Ajoy Kumar Dutta said that the Congress tried to win the hearts of the people in Assam using the sentiments against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, but the Assamese and the indigenous people of the state could not accept the alliance with the AIUDF, led by perfume baron and Lok Sabha member Badruddin Ajmal.
Dutta, a Padma Shri awardee, told IANS: “Every action has an equal reaction. Once three-time Assam Chief Minister late Tarun Gogoi had said ‘who is Ajmal’, but after his death, his party allied with it. People feared that if the Congress came to power in Assam, it would be controlled by Ajmal’s AIUDF.”
The BJP and few other non-BJP parties had accused the AIUDF and its leadership of patronising “illegal immigrants” and most Assamese people had accepted the logic.
The BJP fought the 2016 Assembly polls with the slogan of “‘jati, mati, bheti’ (identity, land and homestead) and succeeded. This time, the saffron party campaigned for the protection of Assamese civilisation and traditional culture and again it achieved its goal.
Except Bengali dominated southern Assam, the Congress-led ‘Mahajot’ (Grand Alliance) performed poorly in most parts of the state, especially in eastern Assam, known as the Assamese heartland.
Of the 15 seats in southern Assam’s Barak Valley comprising three districts — Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi — the Mahajot either won or is leading in 11 seats with the BJP and its ally ahead in four seats.
In the 2016 Assembly elections in Barak Valley, the BJP had won eight seats while the Congress had bagged seven seats.
Political commentator Sushanta Talukdar said that considering the AIUDF’s track record and role, the people of Assam could not accept the Congress’ alliance with the party, which is soft towards the “infiltrators and illegal migrants”.
“Most Assamese and indigenous people thought that the AIUDF is more dangerous than the CAA. So despite not support the new citizenship act, they could not accept the Congress’ stand to ally with Ajmal’s party,” Talukdar told IANS.
The results of the elections to the 126-member Assam assembly clearly indicate that the BJP has caused a permanent dent in the erstwhile traditional Congress stronghold among the tribals, lakhs of tea garden workers and the indigenous people.
It is also understandable that the saffron party’s inroad into this Congress bastion in 2016 was not a temporary phenomenon.
During the campaign, the BJP highlighted the “perfect NRC (National Register of Citizens)” while the Congress gave top priority to the CAA, even as both the national parties had common issues of empowerment of women, jobs to the youth and protecting the Assamese traditional culture.
The Congress had promised ‘Five Guarantees’ to the voters in its manifesto, including restarting the process of NRC; repealing the CAA; Rs 365 daily wage to 10 lakh tea garden workers; 5 lakh jobs in five years; Rs 2,000 per month to housewives and 200-unit free electricity per household.
The BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ also promises to control floods in Assam, empower the women under the state’s flagship scheme ‘Orunodoi’, and increase the monthly payment of Rs 830 to Rs 3,000 covering 30 lakh deserving families.
The AIUDF, which won 13 seats in the 2016 Assembly polls, has won five seats this time besides leading in 10 seats, while the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), which had bagged 12 seats five years ago, has won one seat this time and is leading in two seats in the Bodoland areas of western Assam.
According to the latest tally of the Election Commission, of the total of 126 seats, the BJP has so far won 27 and is leading on 32 seats, while its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) won six seats and is leading on four seats. The United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) has won four seats and is leading on two seats.
The Congress has won eight seats and is leading on 23 seats, while its ally CPI-M is leading on one seat.
Raijor Dal (RD) President and jailed leader Akhil Gogoi, who is contesting from the Sibasagar constituency as an Independent candidate, is also leading.
The BJP had won 60 seats in the previous Assembly elections in 2016 while its ally AGP had managed 14 seats. The Congress had secured 26 seats while one seat went to an Independent candidate.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])