Speculating about what will be outcome of any election in any region, be it Assembly, parliamentary or even civic bodies’, polls can be of a tall order provided it is a triangular contest. In Assam, the Assembly election round the corner, this time by all account, seems to be a triangular one, with the main struggle at most constituencies being between the two major adversaries at the fray spilling the bean against each other, that is between the rainbow ruling combination in Assam with the Bharatiya Janata Party –led coalition and the grand old party, the Congress-led six party new grand alliance. In 2016, the Congress fought the State Assembly election on its own because the AIUDF influence that time around was declining in the State as then winning 13 seats against 18 seats bagged in the 2011 Assembly polls.
This time, the dominant BJP’s pre-poll ally is the new Bodoland Party UPPL instead of the BPF. This time, it is going to be the most exciting election, of a kind never before witnessed after the country’s independence because of the number of the regional political parties at the fray going to be more than the previous State Assembly poll in 2016.
Pre-poll alliances, however, have been announced and almost finalised. There will be basically three political fronts at the fray. The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has entered into an alliance with its coalition partners -- the Asom Gana Sangram Parishad (AGP), United Peoples Party Liberal (UPPL) and Gana Surakha Party (GSP) of MP Naba Sarania, save for with its coalition partner, the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which is not willing to share 12 seats from the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) with the latter. Till filing this story, there has been so far no final seat-sharing agreement between the BJP and its major coalition partner, the AGP. The regional party is seeking to contest in 30-40 constituencies, including 14 seats it won in the 2016 elections. Indeed, bargaining between the BJP and the AGP has reportedly been started, so it has been between the Congress and the AIUDF. Interestingly, the State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, commenting on the AGP’s demand for 40 seats from the Saffron party, reportedly was of the view that if the regional party insisted on getting 40 seats, there may be friendly contest between the two in a number of constituencies. Since the BJP seat tally has shot up to 60 in the 126 member House in 2016 as against 5 seats it won in 2011, this time in trying to reduce the dependence of its other constituents, the ruling party may try and field its candidates in those seats who stand the fair chances of winning as per survey.
So far as the AGP is concerned, its leadership is perceptively worried about a likely erosion of its support-base by the two new regional parties- the Asom Jatiya Parishad and the Raijor Dal – forging a pre-poll alliance, because these two regional players will definitely put up candidates in all those seats which the AGP’s nominee won in the 2016 poll. Which may be the main reason, why this time its leadership seeks to field candidates in more Assembly seats? It goes without saying that the AGP has gained much from the ruling alliance as it has succeeded in increasing its tally of 10 seats notched up in 2011 to 14 seats in 2016. The BJP core committee meeting was held at Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s official residence in Guwahati on February 19. It was expected that the meeting attended by CM Sonowal, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, co-election in-charge Jitendra Singh, a host of party leaders and its core committee members including State BJP President Ranjeet Dass, and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, among others, would discuss the crucial seat-sharing issue between the BJP and the AGP. But other than the BJP’s poll strategies and election management, no other issues did figure in the deliberations. However, it was learnt that there may be discussion between the leaders of the two coalition partners on the seat-sharing issue at the end of this month. The challenge of the BJP will be reduce mounting pressure from ticket-seekers by tactfully dealing with the issue. Failing may only compound the crucial issue of seat-sharing agreement among the coalition partners ahead of the election.
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