Fractured Assam opposition could lead to Congress hat-trick



Guwahati: A fractured opposition in Assam could help the Congress party complete an electoral hat-trick despite facing a barrage of corruption charges, say analysts and lawmakers.

"Unless the opposition unites and gives a fight to the Congress, the ruling party’s victory in the 2011 Assembly Elections is almost inevitable despite rampant corruption and failures on all fronts," Bijoya Chakraborty, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Guwahati, said.

Assam goes to the polls early next year with the Congress aiming for a third straight win.

"The lead for opposition unity should come from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). I agree it would be a cakewalk for the Congress if the opposition remains fractured," said senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Hemen Das.

In the 2001 elections, the AGP and BJP fought as allies but were routed by the Congress. In 2006, the AGP and the BJP severed ties but again the Congress won.

In the 2009 Parliamentary Election, the AGP and BJP fought together but still failed to fare well, prompting the regional party to snap ties with its saffron ally.

"We have decided against any tie-up with the BJP next year although we might go for tie-ups with smaller parties," AGP general secretary Atul Bora said.

But the BJP is keen to partner with the AGP. "We want the AGP to team up with us to challenge the Congress," the BJP MP said.

Even as the opposition is fractured, the Congress government is facing a barrage of corruption charges, including the Rs 1,000 crore financial scam in the North Cachar Hills district. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the scam.

"Corruption charges apart, the issue of price rise, border disputes, insurgency and other issues are haunting the government. But with the opposition failing to pin down the government, the chances of the Congress coming back to power looks certain if there is no opposition unity," said Haidar Hussain, editor of Asomiya Pratidin, an Assamese daily.

The Congress is having the last laugh.

"The opposition is trying to make an issue of corruption although we can boldly say we are not involved. People of Assam have reposed faith in our government and we are sure of winning the 2011 elections as well," acting Chief Minister Bhumidhar Barman said.

The main opposition AGP is faced with serious internal problems, the leadership issue being the primary concern.

"It is true we need to set our house in order before reaching out to the people with a definite agenda if we are to get their trust back," a senior AGP leader admitted.

Badruddin Ajmal, leader of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), said: "We have to wait and watch. The question of aligning with AGP would come only if it formally cuts ties with BJP and also set their own house in order."

The AUDF is the third largest party after Congress and AGP in the 126-member house.

IANS