In the hustle and bustle of the high-voltage West Bengal elections, another state and the significance of its elections are being underreported. Historically, the Northeast has not been considered significant electorally, and in terms of national media coverage as well. While the electoral dimension has most definitely changed in recent years, Indian media continues to lament the ‘tyranny of distance’ between Noida and Guwahati for their lack of coverage of the region. Yet, one must remember that the Assam state assembly elections commencing soon are no less than a final battle of existence which the Grand Old Party is fighting in the state, and the Northeast at large.
In its desperation to remain politically relevant in Assam, the Congress took the suicidal decision last year of allying with the Islamist AIUDF, led by perfume-baron Badruddin Ajmal. Ajmal, who himself, along with his party are perceived to harbour pro-infiltrator sentiments, is now the best friend of Congress in Assam. The Congress’ alliance with the AIUDF was necessitated for one sole reason – prevention of absolute decimation in the coming polls. Yet, the Congress now stares at the prospect of being obliterated anyway, with greater proportions of humiliation no less.
The formula for the Congress and its partner AIUDF in Assam was simple – consolidate Muslim votes. Muslims constitute roughly 35 per cent of the state’s electorate. Although the consolidation of Muslim votes would have been fairly easy for the two parties, they also had another plan – hinging upon which will the consolidation of minority vote bear results. That plan was to achieve the division of Hindu and indigenous votes in the state between itself and the BJP.
However, in what comes as bad news for the Congress and AIUDF, ground reports suggest that the Hindus and indigenous tribes of Assam are solidly rallying behind the BJP. What’s worse? Legitimate Assamese Muslims, who have not settled illegally in the state after fence-jumping from Bangladesh are also dead opposed to the alliance between the Congress and AIUDF. Historically, such Muslims have voted for the Congress, however, they have now made up their minds to defeat the Islamist alliance in the state.
TFI had reported last year itself that the alliance between the Congress and the AIUDF has led to an all-out rift in the Assam Congress leadership, with many senior leaders voicing their opposition to the move, and also rightfully explaining how the proposed alliance will tremendously hurt the prospects of the Grand Old Party in constituencies which are dominated by the indigenous Hindu population, where the BJP will rest assured sweep the slate clean. Senior Congress functionaries had also decided to write a letter to the Congress high command, seeking the removal of the party’s state president – Ripun Bora, who they continue to say has a tendency to take unilateral decisions.
The Congress, under Tarun Gogoi, did not form an alliance with the AIUDF in the 2006 and 2011 polls, as the former Chief Minister was himself of the view that such an alliance would end up disproportionately hurting the party’s prospects in Hindu-dominated constituencies, apart from it getting completely obliterated in the 27 seats which Upper Assam has to offer. Yet, in order to somehow save the fortunes of the Congress, it was Tarun Gogoi who led to the fruition of a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the AIUDF.
The AIUDF was formed with the sole purpose of defending the indefensible – illegal Bangladeshi Muslims. The AIUDF was formed in 2002 in the immediate aftermath of the repeal of the controversial IMDT Act by the Supreme Court, which had put the onus of proving that a person is a foreigner on the police or the complainant. In the absence of the said Act, the onus once again rested with the infiltrator to prove his/her Indian citizenship. The AIUDF staunchly opposed the same.
The Congress allying with such a party has not fared well for the indigenous Hindu and pagan communities of Assam. The BJP is set to benefit immensely from this reverse-polarisation and has, in fact, made the issue of Islamism a major poll plank in the state.