State of affairs: Assam

Regional players eye key role

Strap: AIUDF, BPF could play major role as Cong, BJP unlikely to emerge clear winners in ensuing Assembly polls

Regional players eye key role

editorial@tribune.com

Bijay Sankar Bora

Smaller regional political parties, including the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), are on the radar of the Congress and the BJP alike with the Assembly elections just a few months away in Assam. The bigger parties look unsure, as of now, to win a sufficient number of seats on their own to form the next government.

The ruling Congress, which is facing strong anti-incumbency after being in power for 15 years on the trot, is understood to be exploring a grand alliance or understanding with ‘secular’ parties, as stated by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi himself.

He says the Congress would have no problem in having an alliance or poll understanding with the AIUDF, led by Badaruddin Ajmal, and even the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in the “greater interest of keeping the communal BJP at bay”.

Both the AGP and AIUDF were once sworn enemies of the Congress. Gogoi’s famous public remark – “who is Badaruddin” – before the Assembly election of 2006 is still fresh in public memory. Gogoi has also been very caustic in his criticism of the erstwhile AGP government, led by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, for allegedly perpetrating ‘secret killings’ of the kin of leaders of the proscribed ULFA to demoralise the militant outfit.

But the compulsion of political arithmetic at this juncture has compelled Gogoi to soften his stand towards the AIUDF as well as the AGP. The Congress will need support of the AIUDF to retain power and AGP’s support will be a bonus. The AIUDF has 18 MLAs in the 126-member Assam Assembly and is the biggest Opposition group. Badaruddin Ajmal maintains that the party will win many more seats this time and its support will be essential for any major party to form the next government in the state.

The AGP, which has only eight MLAs, can play the spoilsport for the BJP given that both share a common vote base in the dominant Brahmaputra Valley area in the state. The Congress wants the AGP to remain in the fray in a huge way so that it can cash in on the division of votes between the AGP and BJP.

An alliance or understanding between the Congress and AIUDF will arrest the division of Muslim votes in at least 45 constituencies, which will work against the BJP in the polls.

The AIUDF was formed in the summer of 2005 with an objective to protect the interests of Muslim minorities in the state after the Supreme Court scrapped the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act in May, 2005 on a petition filed by Sarbananda Sonowal, who is now the state BJP president and a Union Minister. He headed the All Assam Students Union when he filed the PIL in the Supreme Court in 2000.

In this backdrop, the support of the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), a Bodo tribe dominated party, has become very crucial for the BJP as the BPF is likely to win at least 10 seats in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) areas in the state unless there is a massive division of Bodo votes.

The BPF, led by militant leader-turned politician Hagrama Mohilary, was a long-time ally of the Congress since 2006 till it had a falling out with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi last year. Hagrama, who has announced BPF’s support to the BJP in the polls, claims that the party will play the kingmaker. The BPF, which is in power in the BTC, has 12 MLAs in the state Assembly.

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