By Sagarneel Sinha
With the assembly elections to be held by the month of April next year in Assam, the state is witnessing a spree of formations of new regional parties. The ideology of these parties formed is mostly based on anti-CAA views. The new parties include journalist and Rajya Sabha MP Ajit Bhuyan’s Aanchalik Gana Morcha (AGM), Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) launched by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) and Rajjor Dal of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS). Another new party United Regional Party-Assam (URPA) merged with the other new party, the Rajjor Dal.
Ajit Bhuyan is a notable journalist of Assam but his party’s viability is doubted. In electoral politics, influential names aren’t enough to bring votes. A political party needs organisational back-up in the ground — that the journalist’s new party lacks. Also, people generally don’t vote in large numbers for parties that prop up just ahead of elections. That’s why, not only Bhuyan’s party, the parties launched by AASU, AJYCP and KMSS too also face the same problems — the question of electoral survival in the state.
However, unlike Ajit Bhuyan’s party that has no organisational support in the ground, AASU and KMSS are the two major influential non-political organisations in the state. Not to forget that these two organisations were in the forefront during the anti-CAA agitations in the state early this year.
The main aim of these anti-CAA regional parties is to dislodge the BJP government of the state in the upcoming assembly elections. Despite this, these parties aren’t on the same page in terms of alliance. Ajit Bhuyan’s party has agreed to be a part of the Congress-AIUDF alliance, which will also include the Left parties. Notably, Ajit Bhuyan was elected to the Rajya Sabha this year as an independent candidate with the support of Congress and AIUDF.
But the AJP and Rajjor Dal aren’t eager to be part of the Congress led alliance. Their stand is clear that they are against alliance with any national party and communal force. The hesitation of both these parties is not only against Congress but also against the Badruddin Ajmal led AIUDF — which is perceived by the dominant Assamese community as a party representing the interests of illegal immigrants. The core vote bank of AIUDF are the Bengali Muslims.
Also, a large section of the Assamese community view the Congress as a party that facilitated the infiltration of Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh into Assam for its own political interests. Not to forget that AASU aided by other regional organisations had launched agitations against the Congress party back in the 1980s that led to the signing of the historic Assam Accord in 1985 with the government of India and subsequently forming of the Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) by AASU. In the elections held in 1985, AGP defeated the Congress and it was for the first time that the state saw a government formed by a regional party. AGP came to power twice — first in 1985 and later in 1996.
But since then, the state’s major regional party has been declining and is presently reduced to just a small party wielding little significance in state politics. Currently, the party is an ally of BJP and as of now, it has no intentions of leaving the BJP led NDA. This is the reason that a section of AASU isn’t with the decision of forming a new political party in the state. AJP’s success in the assembly polls is doubted by this section of AASU. They fear that any electoral loss by AJP may reduce the popularity of AASU — which has always presented itself as a non-political organisation. That’s why some leading faces of AASU have already started to distance themselves from the political statements of AJP. A new leadership of AASU is expected soon in order to keep the apolitical character of the organisation intact.
Another fact is that Assamese are also having the realisation that the demographic issues they are facing are exactly the same they faced in 1970s and 1980s. Nothing changed in between despite the fact that the AGP, born out of the fire of the Assamese agitations, came to power twice in the state. CAA is a national act passed by the parliament of the country. So, to make any required changes in the law, national parties would be having more power than the regional parties of the state. So, the Assamese have mainly two options — either to go with BJP or with Congress.
Given the fact that BJP, which earlier was viewed only as a party of Bengali Hindus, has been able to penetrate deep into Assamese and tribal belts of the state through its Hindu agenda mixed with strong Assamese regionalism, the Assamese community, mostly Hindus, may prefer to go with BJP than the Congress, which still carries the baggage of being soft towards Bengali Muslims. Significantly, this time Congress is going to ally with pro-Bengali Muslim party, AIUDF. Actually, the battle in the upcoming assembly polls of Assam will be mainly between the BJP led NDA and the Congress led alliance, where the new regional parties may find little electoral space. (IPA Service)