The former chief minister of Assam, late Tarun Gogoi, as his last political act, ensured that the Congress and pro-Bangladeshi AIUDF, led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, enter into a pre-poll alliance for this year’s state elections to the 126-member legislative assembly at Dispur. Tarun Gogoi is no more, and the young guard of Congress leaders is not very interested to be seen allying with a party that is historically known to work for the benefit of only one community, irrespective of them being legitimate Indian citizens or illegal fence jumpers.
Many in Congress are known to be sceptical of the party tying up with the AIUDF. However, Sushmita Dev, MP from Silchar and the All-India Mahila Congress chief went a step further and took to creating quite a scene at the Congress office Saturday in Guwahati in the presence of the party chief Ripun Bora. Sushmita Dev is infuriated with the Congress high command for giving away winnable seats by the party to the AIUDF on a silver platter. In Assam’s Barak Valley, the AIUDF put forward a demand for 15 seats, and Congress readily prostrated before it.
According to the Indian Express, of the 15 Assembly seats in Barak Valley, comprising of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts, the Congress had won three last time, while the AIUDF had won four. All three seats in Hailakandi were won by AIUDF last time and the party is claiming all three as part of the seat-sharing deal. The Congress has reportedly agreed to give away the three seats to the Ajmal-led AIUDF angering many of its own young leaders in the state.
At the Congress office in Guwahati, heated exchanges were witnessed on Saturday, leading to many leaders announcing that they would resign from the party. Among those who reportedly threatened to do the same was MP Sushmita Dev, who local media also alleged to have shot off a letter to Sonia Gandhi conveying her disgust towards the seat-sharing formula being worked out with the AIUDF, and offering to resign from all her posts immediately. Now, however, she is claiming she never offered to resign, although she did state that many leaders had threatened to.
To add to the Congress’ woes, the AIUDF will be engaging in what it calls a ‘friendly fight’ with the Grand Old Party on at least five of the 16 seats on which candidates have been announced by it. Interestingly, Congress had won four of these five “friendly” seats in 2016. With the AIUDF putting up its own candidates in such seats while also having an alliance with Congress, the latter party’s fortunes are bound to take a hit.
It is for these reasons, added with the additional baggage of the AIUDF being a pro-Bangladeshi party, that many Congress leaders in the state seem to be having second thoughts about the alliance as a whole. As a matter of fact, this is not the first time that Congress has been divided over the AIUDF question. Earlier, as reported by TFI, when the alliance with AIUDF was being finalised, senior Congress leaders from the state had rebelled against the party high command and demanded the ouster of state chief Ripun Bora for taking “unilateral decisions”. Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia along with other senior leaders like Pradyut Bordoloi, Bhupen Borah, Rana Goswami and Abdul Khaleque had shot off a letter to the Congress’ top leadership, saying they are opposed to the idea of allying with the AIUDF.
With the Assam elections fast approaching, the Congress’ game threatens to get spoiled in the state even before the first ballots are cast, paving the way for a saffron wave to grip the Northeastern hub.