Congress battles near wipeout in eastern Assam
For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Assembly elections in Assam have been about achieving targets — “mission 84” in 2016 and “mission 100+” in 2021 — along with its regional allies.
But its primary objective has been to attain the simple majority mark in the 126-member House, factoring in at least 35 Assembly seats where Muslim voters are dominant or are in large enough numbers to be the deciding factor.
The by-elections to five Assembly seats on October 30, and a sixth soon after, could take the BJP closer to scoring 64 seats, which would lessen its dependence on its regional allies, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL).
The BJP is contesting three of the five seats, leaving Gossaigaon and Tamulpur in the Bodoland Territorial Region to the UPPL. For the first time, all candidates of the BJP are turncoats.
Phanidhar Talukdar has been fielded from the Bhabanipur seat that he won for the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) while Rupjyoti Kurmi and Sushanta Borgohain had won the Mariani and Thowra seats, respectively, as Congress candidates six months ago.
The BJP had won 60 seats in the March-April Assembly polls but is down to 59 after the resignation of former Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who became a Rajya Sabha member. If all its three candidates win the by-polls, the party’s tally will be 62, short of the simple majority mark by two.
Challenge for Congress
The BJP is confident of the ruling alliance sweeping the five seats. The party is also upbeat about bagging Majuli, particularly after the Congress decided to let the Assam Jatiya Parishad contest the seat.
“There are no reasons why the people will not vote for our candidates, who have a sizeable support base,” the BJP’s State unit president Bhabesh Kalita said.
There are speculations that the Congress gave up the Majuli seat because Rajib Lochan Pegu, its best bet and candidate for the last two Assembly elections against Mr. Sonowal, is tipped to join the BJP.
The challenge for the Congress would be to retain Mariani and Thowra through its candidates Luhit Konwar and Manoranjan Konwar, respectively.
Their loss would leave Congress with only three of some 40 seats in eastern Assam, and there are fears that BJP could target at least one of the three MLAs.
Without the AIUDF and the Bodoland People’s Front as its allies unlike in the March-April Assembly polls, the Congress is contesting all five seats while the AIUDF is contesting two (Bhabanipur and Gossaigaon).
Activist turned politician Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal is contesting the Mariani and Thowra seats. This could harm the prospects of Congress more than that of the BJP.
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