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Assam Congress Shifts Course

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The Congress party is breaking up the alliance with Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF post assembly elections defeat to regain its declined popularity in Assam. Small parties in key pockets of the state may join hands with the Congress for future struggle.

By POLLOB KISHOR PHUKAN


Just as it happens in most of the cases, the Congress party has broken off its alliance called ‘Mahajot’ with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), party headed by muslim cleric Badruddin Ajmal, in Assam after they lost the last assembly elections. Since 2001, the Congress which had ruled Assam for three consecutive terms failed to beat the Bhartiya Janata Party in the state and the saffron party has formed the government for the second time now. This time the government is headed by Himanta Biswa Sarma who had joined the BJP after he had voluntarily quit the Congress for the negligence of the high command. 

The Mahajot was an alliance of ten political parties, big and small. The decision came at the core committee meeting of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) held at Guwahati ahead of by-election to six assembly constituencies in the state. Congress will fight solo. The reason cited by the party for the break up is that the AIUDF has been praising the saffron party since the new government has come into being. 

The resolution adopted by the APCC says, “The committee observed that ‘mahajot’ alliance partner AIUDF’s behaviour and attitude in relation to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has baffled the members of the Congress party. The AIUDF leadership and senior members continuous and mysterious praise of the BJP party and the chief minister has affected public perception of Congress party.” 

AIUDF wasted no time to react strongly to the Congress. Party’s organising secretary and MLA, Md Aminul Islam is of opinion that the Congress party is on the part of self- annihilation as the grand old party itself will never be able to defeat the juggernaut of the BJP in Assam. He said, “The Congress is free to take decisions regarding their party, but we would term their decision to sever ties with us a historical blunder. We had formed an alliance with Congress in order to oppose BJP’s communal agenda in the assembly polls.”

He also apprised that the Congress can’t accuse AIUDF of having nexus with BJP. Instead today’s decision was the outcome of pro-BJP elements within the Congress. “It was a BJP strategy to use Sivasagar MLA and Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi to break the alliance. They became successful in that and Congress was the loser,” he added.

 The decision of allying with Ajmal proved costly to the party. Many of the Congress stalwarts in Assam were not happy with the decision of the party high command to join hands with Badruddin Ajmal. It was an open secret that if the decision of the coalition was taken by the national leadership of the party, it was not liked by the local leadership. Leaders like Debabrata Saikia, Pradyut Bordoloi, Bhupen Borah, Rana Goswami and Abdul Khaleque were against any alliance with the AIUDF for the assembly polls.

Debarata Saikia, before the elections, had said that the party is open to join hands with all parties that are anti-BJP and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). However, Saikia had categorically said that joining hands with AIUDF would not serve the purpose. “Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Ripun Bora has earlier informed about an alliance with AIUDF during a party core committee meeting. Responding to it, we all said that an alliance with AIUDF only will not work. We have advocated for a grand alliance with all the anti BJP and anti-CAA forces together,” Saikia had said.

A loss to remember

After 2016, the Congress party lost a second consecutive term to the BJP in Assam. In 2016, Congress had secured 26 of the total 126 seats and allowed the BJP to form its first ever government in the state. In this year’s polls, Congress won 29 seats, AIUDF bagged 16, BPF won 4 and CPM bagged 1 seat—taking the grand alliance to 50 seats. On the other hand, BJP and its allies won 75 seats and returned to power for the second consecutive term. 

The coalition is directly being attributed by the political pundits for the loss of the Congress. Just before the elections the national leadership took disciplinary action against some of the key Assam Congress leaders. Three prominent leaders— Mariani MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi, Thowra MLA Sushanta Borgohain and former MP Sushmita Dev left the party, with disgruntlement over the alliance with the AIUDF one of the key factors. Three-time member of the legislative assembly Kurmi almost created a parallel front within the APCC ahead of the assembly elections with like-minded leaders who opposed the party’s decision to bring the AIUDF in the Mahajot. 

A new arithmetic is being formulated of late. Sibsagar MLA and first timer Akhil Gogoi has been meeting many Congress leaders in the national capital and is also looking to have a word with Rahul Gandhi for future course of politics in the state. Prior to this the president of Raijor Dol, a local party, had met APCC chief Bhupen Bora and former president Ripun Bora may form an alliance with Congress now and have put the only condition that the AIUDF should not be in the alliance anymore.

Two way Erosion – A curious of Congress

The Congress seems to be on a spree for ‘Congress Mukt Bharat.’ The party has been, of late, making alliances with the parties that are primarily muslim based in different states and has been either losing elections or shrinking there. The travesty with such alliances is they cause two-erosion of Congress’ vote bank. On one hand, the alliance gives a legitimacy and popularity to these parties among the tradition Congress muslim voters and they tend to shit their loyalties to these muslim based parties. On the other hand, the non-muslim constituency identifies the Congress with the muslim fundamentalism and muslim appeasement. In such a scenario, the BJP or other local parties are able to push the grand old party to the walls. 

Alliance with AIUDF is a one-off example due to which the party may have lost in assembly. The same has happened in Kerala where the Congress joined hands with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and lost the elections badly. 

Now one may also look at the West Bengal polls. Here the party was in alliance with the Furfura Sharif cleric led party called Indian Secular Front. The net result was that the Congress, which had a reasonable vote share in 2016, had secured less than three per cent of the popular votes. This is called decimation. The party had 44 legislators in 2016 and has ruled the state for decades in the past; this time secured zero. For the first time in the history of the West Bengal assembly, the Congress party has no representation. The new entrant– Indian Secular Front – was able to secure a good amount of muslim vote and got one seat.  

Every time the Congress loses elections, an Antony Committee is formed to look into the reasons for the loss. It was made in 1996 and also in 2014. The committee had, both times, came to conclusion that the key reason for the loss is that common man thinks that the Congress is a ‘pro-Muslim party.’ It’s yet to be seen as to when the Congress will give a heed to the Antony Committee findings.

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