Do-or-die battle for BJP and Congress in Assam
The election bugle has been sounded for four states and a union territory and Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces a daunting task after its two back-to-back humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar.
New Delhi: The election bugle has been sounded for four states and a union territory and Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces a daunting task after its two back-to-back humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar.
The party can fancy its chances in Assam only where Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is battling anti-incumbency after staying in power for 15 years. In the remaining states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and union territory of Puducherry, it has very negligible presence.
The BJP is desperate to expand its footprint in the remote northeastern part of the country after its astonishing performance in Assam in the last general elections where it bagged seven out of the 14 seats. This time, the BJP has stitched together a formidable alliance by netting its off-an-on ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a former ally of the Congress - Bodoland People`s Front - and dissident Congress leaders.
BJP`s state chief Sarbananda Sonowal, who has been declared the chief ministerial candidate, was a long time associate of AGP before he joined hands with the saffron party. It also embraced 10 Congress MLAs led by Himanta Biswa Sarma, an influential minister in the Gogoi cabinet, after their defections.
The BJP will be banking heavily on the experience of Sarma, who oversaw the last assembly elections and engineered the Congress` astounding victory when political pundits were writing the obituary of the grand old party in the state. The Congress triumphed in 79 of the 126 seats.
On the paper, the BJP looks set to upset the applecart of the Congress, which failed to strike a pre-poll alliance with Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
Their common vote bank - the Muslim vote - is likely to be split as both the parties derive maximum political strength from Muslim-dominated areas. The AIUDF doubled its strength from 9 to 18 in the last assembly elections contesting on 77 seats.The BJP has improved its vote share between the 2011 assembly election and 2014 general elections incredibly.
From 11.5 percent, the BJP`s vote share jumped more than three-fold to 36.5 percent in the last parliamentary elections. In contrast, the Congress` vote share fell down from 39.9 percent in 2011 to 29.9 percent in the general elections, a massive erosion of 10 percent in its vote share.
It remains to be seen whether the BJP will succeed in repeating or improving its 2014 performance because the saffron party was helped largely by a massive wave in favour of Modi then. Much water has flown down the Brahmaputra since then.
There has been dip in the popularity of Modi as he has struggled to implement any of his much flaunted promises. To make matters worse, the economy is not doing as well as one expected.
The BJP in Assam represents a rainbow party with members largely drawn from other parties. It has recruited Congress dissidents, members of the All Assam Students` Union (AASU), the student wing of the AGP and surrendered cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) which waged an armed struggle against the state.
Even its face in the state, Sonowal, was president of AASU. It will be interesting to watch how this rag-tag bunch of politicians stays together as everybody will be demanding its pound of flesh.As of now, it is advantage BJP as it has tied up with AGP and Bodoland People`s Front (BPF).
All the three parties have a common cause as far as their opposition to the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is concerned.