By Sagarneel Sinha
During the 2011 assembly elections of Assam, Congress party thundered back to power with a strong majority by winning 78 seats. This was the third consecutive victory of the grand old party in the north-eastern state. The resounding success came at a time when the incumbent Congress state government was facing charges of corruption. The result came as a surprise to many including the then main opposition party, Assam Gana Parishad — as some exit polls had predicted that the regional party would perform better.
Actually, the success was the result of the ongoing peace process initiated by the then UPA government at the centre and at the state by the Congress government led by chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who passed away on Monday evening facing post-Covid-19 complications. He was credited for bringing the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the most dreaded militant organisation of the state, to the negotiating table. This resulted in earning goodwill of the state people who brought his government back to power.
In a state like Assam, which had faced extremism, Tarun Gogoi’s efforts in bringing peace to the state earned him a special place in the minds of the state’s citizens. And, for the Congress party, he was its mass leader. At a time when the party is out of power both at the centre and the state, Gogoi was seen by the party workers as a hope to dethrone the BJP in the upcoming assembly polls — which are just five months away.
Already, the Congress party has given enough indications to ally with its once arch rival, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) led by Dhubri Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Ajmal, in the upcoming polls to form a grand alliance to defeat the ruling BJP. And Tarun Gogoi himself was part of the process initiated to form a grand alliance of anti-BJP parties in the state under the leadership of the Congress. Importantly, it was Gogoi himself who refused to ally with the AIUDF, which was friendly towards the Congress at the centre, during the 2016 assembly polls and also called the regional party as a communal one. So, it came as a surprise when the late three time chief minister himself supported the idea of Congress-AIUDF alliance.
No doubt, Tarun Gogoi’s death is a setback for the grand old party which has been trying all the options available to defeat the BJP to reclaim its old citadel. Already there have been fissures in the opposition camp. The blueprint of the so-called grand alliance isn’t finalised yet. Although senior Congress leaders are clear that the party would have its alliance with the AIUDF, the decision is yet to get high command approval. The state leaders are still waiting for the party high command’s approval. The Aanchalik Gana Morcha (AGM), a new regional party led by journalist and Rajya Sabha MP AjitBhuyan, and the Left parties are unhappy with the Congress for the delay in finalization of the pact.
On the other hand, the Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP), the new regional party formed by the All Asom Students’ Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), isn’t keen to join the grand alliance despite repeated appeals by the Congress. AJP is instead busy in attacking the AIUDF. Also the Raijor Dal hasn’t shown any interest in joining the proposed grand alliance. The Congress has also called this new regional party to join the alliance.
At a time when there are some murmurs from the opposition camp against the Congress for going slow on the alliance issue, the party is also facing internal pressure for its decision to ally with the AIUDF. Already Biswajit Ray, general secretary of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC), has resigned from the party citing displeasure with the party’s decision to ally with the AIUDF. The regional party led by Ajmal is seen in the state as a party that serves the interests of Muslim immigrants.
Amid all of these, the Congress party has entered into an electoral pact with the AIUDF in the Bodoland Territorial Council elections. The grand old party is contesting on 13 and the Ajmal’s party on 6 out of the 40 seats of the council. Both the parties are hoping for a good result. During the last elections, Congress failed to open its account while AIUDF fetched four seats. If the two parties contesting together this time perform better, this would definitely strengthen the chances of the alliance between the two parties in the upcoming state elections.
Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that prospects of the Congress returning back to power aren’t bright — as there is a high probability that the AJP and Raijor Dal may eat into the anti-BJP votes. But for the Congress workers, the charismatic Tarun Gogoi was the main hope to defeat BJP in the state. Now after his death, the path for the grand old party in its old citadel ahead of the assembly polls would be more challenging. (IPA Service)