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Around two months back Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) walked out of the alliance with BJP in protest against the saffron brigade’s unflinching support for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Now, just on the eve of Lok Sabha elections, why AGP took this 180 degree turn. Few months back the AGP leaders were seen hitting the streets across Assam with posters and banners against the citizenship bill. Really, it’s very difficult to read the mood of the politicians which keeps on swinging.

In 2019, the prime issue will be the identity of the core Assamese community. They fear that the Assamese community is losing their identity to the marauding illegal immigrants who have sneaked into Assam—this charge though not proved, has been dominating the politics of this tiny Northeastern state for the past 40 years.

It will be wrong to say that BJP was desperate to stitch this alliance. Rather AGP wanted to re-enter the NDA fold ahead of the ensuing big fight. In 2014, AGP drew a blank—so in this Lok Sabha election it wanted to be in the right side. Of the 14 Assam seats BJP left 4 seats for its allies, including Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). The BJP will be contesting from 10 seats. AGP will contest from Barpeta, Kaliabor and Dhubri.

These adjustments clearly show that the Shah of BJP asked his partner to try their luck from the seats which he could never dream of winning. Of the three seats, two are being dominated by minorities who have a habit of voting in block.

Kaliabor is considered to be the bastion of Tarun Gogoi and psephologists opined that the junior Gogoi (Gaurav Gogoi) is expected to sail through.

An elated Ram Madhav—the national general secretary of BJP who scripted this alliance in Assam told, “We have joined hands to defeat the Congress”. Madhav tried to call this alliance as the need of the hour to outsmart the grand old party in Assam, in reality BJP wanted to stretch its alliance a bit further. The former Assam CM and senior AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta is sulking in anger and he didn’t shy away from expressing his resentment.

It’s known to one and all that the AGP-turned-BJP leader—the incumbent Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal resigned from AGP following differences with Mahanta. Today the situation has changed and his once-upon-a-time protégé is sitting on the hot seat and being his mentor he is jobless. BJP believes in presidential style of campaigning because it has got a strong and bankable face in Narendra Modi. This strategy worked in 2014 and certainly it’s going to be applied in 2019 as well.

India is a vast country and each state has a different issue. In Northeast, ethnicity and identity play a very significant role and these issues will dominate the campaign trail in the forthcoming general elections.

The key issues in Assam are NRC and the citizenship bill. In fact the AICC President Rahul Gandhi during his whirlwind Assam tour assured the masses, “If Congress comes to power in Delhi, it will surely do away with the controversial citizenship bill.”

Barring the twin seats in Barak Valley—Silchar and Karimganj the remaining 8 seats are in Brahmaputra Valley. So, in this context BJP’s decision of taking AGP on board can be considered to be a smart move because it tried to keep the core Assamese voters in good mood.

How far this strategy will benefit BJP, time alone will tell. Usually alliances with regional forces are formed by big national parties to make inroads in the unconquered territory.

But in Assam the situation is different because AGP which rode to power following its participation in the Assam movement is now showing signs of going into oblivion.

Satraajit Palchoudhury

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