BJP, allies confident of by-poll win in northeastern States

Troubled by factionalism in Meghalaya, Congress in Assam may go alone in Assam

The BJP and its strategic regional allies in the Northeast are confident of winning most of the 10 Assembly seats, where by-elections have been scheduled on October 30.

Five of the seats are in Assam, three in Meghalaya and one each on Mizoram and Nagaland.

BJP’s Assam unit president Bhabesh Kalita is upbeat about the party and one of its regional allies sweeping the five seats. The BJP would contest the Bhabanipur, Gossaigaon, Mariani and Thowrah seats, while ally United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) would fight the Tamulpur seat.

“We expect our central leadership to clear the names of the candidates within the first week of October,” a party spokesperson said.

The Gossaigaon and Tamulpur seats fell vacant after their MLAs Majendra Narzary of the Bodoland People’s Front and Leho Ram Boro of the UPPL died. By-elections to the other three seats became necessary after their candidates quit and joined the BJP.

The BJP is likely to field Rupjyoti Kurmi and Sushanta Borgohain – both imports from the Congress – for Mariani and Thowrah, while there is no certainty about Phanidhar Talukdar, who had won the Bhabanipur seat as an All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) candidate.

In Meghalaya, the BJP is expected to contest only the Rajabala seat, a Congress stronghold that the National People’s Party (NPP) is keen on wresting. The NPP is the BJP’s ally in the State and a member of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), an anti-Congress forum.

“We have decided to field Abdus Saleh and Pyniaid Sing Syiem for the Rajabala and Mawryngkneng constituencies respectively. We will contest all three seats and are on the verge of announcing the name of the candidate for the Mawphlang seat,” NPP’s Meghalaya unit president and Rajya Sabha member W.R. Kharlukhi said.

In Mizoram’s Tuirial constituency and Nagaland’s Shamtorr-Chessore seat, the Mizo National Front and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party are seen as the front runners. Both are members of the BJP-fronted NEDA.

Congress to go it alone in Assam?

The Congress, keen on reversing its fortune in the region, is expected to go it alone in Assam. It had forged an alliance with nine parties, including parliamentarian Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF, which proved to be disastrous in the Assembly polls in March-April.

A month ago, the party severed its ties with the minority-based AIUDF after an assessment that the alliance distanced it from the indigenous voters. “We are organising an election meeting on October 1 to finalise how many seats we will contest and who to field,” a party spokesperson said.

The Meghalaya unit of the Congress appeared more confident than its Assam counterpart about “doing well” in the bypolls. “We will sweep the three seats because of the allegations of corruption and irregularities against the ruling dispensation,” party veteran and former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said.

The Congress, though, has been battling infighting since its high command appointed Lok Sabha member Vincent H. Pala as the State unit president a month ago.

After the resignation of Shipping and Ayush Minister Sarbananda Sonowal from Majuli on October 28, the BJP has 59 MLAs in the Assam Assembly while the Congress has 27. In Meghalaya, the NPP (it heads the alliance government, with the BJP as one of its partners) has 21 MLAs and the Congress 17.

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