[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]s part of his avowed commitment to achieve `Congress mukt Bharat’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set his eyes on dislodging 14-year-old Tarun Gogoi government in the 2016 assembly elections. In a big push to make the state BJP battle-fit ahead of the polls, the party inducted nine Congress MLAs on Friday and is understood to be in touch with many more likely ‘deserters’.
The man behind the `poaching’ is Hemta Biswa Sarma, a one-time trusted aide of Tarun Gogoi for years. Sarma wielded enormous power as a Cabinet minister in the Gogoi government before he joined the BJP in the first week of September. A highly controversial figure and a `moneybag’ who is facing a plethora of corruption charges, Sarma had played crucial roles in the Congress’ victory in the last three assembly polls beginning 2001. He turned against Gogoi when the CM fielded his son Gaurav Gogoi in the Lok Sabha polls and projected him as his political heir.
In July, Sarma claimed the support of 52 of the 78 MLAs and made a serious bid for the post of chief minister. When the Congress high command rejected his demand, Sarma embraced the Saffron outfit.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]op sources in the BJP said the party has a three-fold strategy for Assam.
BJP will have to ensure that anti-Congress votes are not divided.
First, weaken the Congress; second, reach out to Bengali Hindu refugees; third, bring together smaller outfits and former militants under one umbrella.
The party has already inflicted considerable damage on the Congress by wooing its legislators, and as part of its plan to strengthen its hold in the Bengali Hindu refugees, the BJP has been able to persuade the Central government to grant citizenship to them. This is seen as a possible game changer in Assam politics because Bengali Hindu refugees are estimated to be around six millions of the total population of 31 million. These refugees migrated to India from Pakistan and Bangladesh after facing religious persecution. The local Assamese are up in arms against the Centre’s move to rehabilitate them. The All Assam Students union has threatened to revive the bloody agitation of the 1980s that had led to the historic Assam accord to identify and expel illegal migrants who had moved to the state after 1971. The migrants who came to Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote, and those migrating between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but given all other rights of citizenship.
In a state where the Muslim population is close to 30%, the Bengali Hindus veered towards the BJP in a big way in the Lok Sabha election which saw the saffron outfit winning seven out of the 14 seats whereas the Congress could get just three seats.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he BJP has already opened its door to SULFA (surrendered Ulfa) cadres as well as leaders from Asom Gana Parishad. The party is also trying to woo the AASU and tribal outfits like Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF). The BPF has walked out of a decade-old alliance with the Congress and was set to join the BJP as an ally.
“Assam’s political scenario is changing and people are looking at BJP as a viable alternative to Congress. We are going to win the 2016 election and form the government,” said BJP national general secretary and in-charge of Assam Ram Madhav. He was talking to reporters at the joining ceremony of the nine rebel Congress MLAs on Friday.
In the 2011 assembly polls, BJP secured 11.47% votes and five seats whereas the Congress won 78 of the 126 seats with a vote share of 39.39%. However, the Lok Sabha polls threw a major surprise in the state when the BJP’s secured 36.86% votes and the Congress 29.9%.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]O[/dropcap]f the 26 assembly constituencies, 18 are reserved for SC /ST. Then state sees very high turnout (in 2011 assembly polls it was as high as 75.9%) of polling. The BJP’s fortune are on the rise in the state as was also evident from the result of the recent municipal elections when the party won 38 out of 74 town committees and municipal boards.
However, BJP will have to ensure that anti-Congress votes are not divided. To achieve that goal, it will have to unite all anti-Congress forces in the state.
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