AGP and BJP should take Guwahati Municipality Elections seriously


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The BJP has never been in power in Assam and the AGP has been out of it for the past 12 years. Political parties cannot assume themselves to be defacto alternative to an existing party in power. Governments don’t shift just by fate. Opposition parties have to concentrate on being a formidable force within and beyond the assembly or parliament. They have to be able in molding and representing the public voice against the current government. In short they have to remain connected to the electorate.

1422524A party has got few ways in which they can stay connected to the people. One is to have a strong cadre base and work on their respective ideology for maximum of the 365 days that constitute a year. Both AGP and the BJP don’t enjoy such a position in the state of Assam. The BJP has been out of power in centre for 9 years, but by portraying the development made in Gujarat, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh etc it is trying to gain mileage and keep their chances alive at the centre for 2014. Similarly, given that our country has multiple layers of governance, one another way of staying connected is to be part of local governments and perform well in them. This will help the parties run a campaign by setting this local governance as an example. Even this is not a position that either the AGP or BJP enjoys in Assam. Almost all local bodies, autonomous councils, Zila Parishads belong to the Indian National Congress. The ruling party has made a comfortable position across all layers of governments barring a few in which the major opposition is AIUDF.

Outside the world of representatives in the public sphere as well we see that the regional party is much under-represented today since yester years. The All Assam Students Union which was the mother organization of AGP is a distinct entity working towards regionalism and having no terms with the party on paper. Due to a series of successive losses the moral of the loyal supporters are also down. They might surely go and vote for the party but the zeal and enthusiasm is not visible. The BJP on the other hand has been growing at some pace but yet it has not reached a level where its chances look good. Moreover some hardcore ideologies of the BJP might play as political gimmicks in rest of India, but in Assam swaying voters on issues of hindutva is difficult. At times the lone resort of the AGP and BJP which comes as the issue of illegal immigration has been thrown so many times in the political centre stage that it has almost lost its charm now.

Finally although the BJP doesn’t have to face this but the AGP is surely blamed for being a defunct government for whatever reasons it might be. In the political blame game whenever the party raises an issue it is cross questioned on its initiative during its 10 years in power. So from all of this we see that the regional party and the national party have to both start almost from level zero. General elections are just a few months away and the state elections are due in 2016. At this juncture the Guwahati Municipal Elections come as a great opportunity for these parties to reverse the trend back to positives for itself. AGP has declared candidature for all 31 wards and 90 area representatives and the BJP is equally likely to do the same. Both parties are going ahead without a pre-poll alliance. Many political thinkers would welcome this and many would think otherwise.

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Flash flood during recent rains in Guwahati

But why do I think that both these parties need to take this seriously? Firstly, an important thing to note here is that in recent times the city of Guwahati has faced many civic issues; water-logging, landslide, solid waste management etc. There were spurts of anger and demonstration against the local MLA’s. Anti-incumbency as a factor against the congress is certainly a visible phenomenon. Secondly it will be easier for both the parties to convince people to give them a chance to represent them in GMC because the potential risk that people might perceive from voting these parties in MLA or MP election is much less in a local municipal election. Thirdly it is an easy election to manage compared even to panchayat etc where the scale is larger. Moreover as a substantial portion of the electorate is urban the parties can expect less manipulation and more rational voting. Lastly a finally let us look at a few stats from 2011 Assam assembly election:

Name of Constituency

Congress (%) AGP (%) BJP (%) AGP + BJP

Jalukbari

72.09

11.44 12.61

24.05

Dispur

41.48

37.37 14.51

51.88

Guwahati East

37.44

34.30 23.25

57.55

Guwahati West 34.50 22.45 27.31

49.76

                                                                                   *Data from Election Commission of India

In politics one plus one is never equal to two but the stats clearly shows that there is a sizeable percentage of anti congress vote. It will still remain a test for both these parties to avoid eating into each other’s votes thereby making way for congress to slip through. But given that these elections are more localized the probability that results might be more favorable to these parties if decent strategies are applied exists.

The chances for AGP and BJP might seem better compared to its chances in other elections when seen from results perspective. But still the reason both these parties needs to put all their might behind these elections is also at a consequential level. It is a golden opportunity for them to set a good foothold in the most major urban centre for the state. Given more elections are lined up in future, a good performance in this elections will certainly enhance their future chances if they fare well in their work of running the GMC. 10-12 years is a long period in politics, for these many number of years lot of things might have changed within these parties. AGP is not anymore a party of novice politicians; BJP has a new state President and has come a little away from its hard line stances. But both parties have yet not received a platform in which they can rectify their past errors or portray a new identity. This is one such opportunity. Lastly but more importantly, a substantial portion of the loyal supporters and cadres of the regional party or BJP after being de-motivated with 2011 results are lying silently and helplessly across the state. A good show will usher in faith in their minds to work more for the parties in upcoming elections. Even if they don’t gain majority but manage to win a sizeable number of wards all the given benefits will stand and also they will get a chance to come closer to the electorate and stay connected.

The AGP has been out of power since 12 years and the BJP has never had a taste of it in Assam. Parties like Shiv Sena in Maharastra have been out of power for a greater number of years. But the BMC has been won by the Sena on most occasions. They are still a reckoning force in Maharashtra state politics. It is because of their strong cadre base and at the same time because their activity is visible in some layers of governance. A good civic body is a minimum basic need that comes as more primary than any other government body. Making a strong point there will prove a lot of things and that is why AGP & BJP must take Guwahati Municipal Elections seriously.

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6 thoughts on “AGP and BJP should take Guwahati Municipality Elections seriously

  1. inahasd

    Good analysis Arindam!
    AGP had a very strong mandate from the people for two terms. Had they worked on their promises, both Asom and AGP would have been in a better state. People have completely lost faith in AGP and are totally apprehensive in betting their trust again. On the other hand, BJP is still looking forward to winning a minimum number of seats after which it can say ‘we have arrived’. Alliance with AGP should only be a stance for BJP when it sees that people are fed up with the Congress/AIUDF.

    Reply
  2. pranab kumar kalita

    demographicaly assom has changed from hindu majority to hindu minority state so the remaining hindus have to think hindutva or nothing else to be above the water .

    Reply
    1. Arindam Baruah Post author

      I agree the Hindus have to take a stronger stance. But if that strong stance is a secular one which also meets the aspirations of the tribes and the indigenous Muslims it will be a winning stance. Hardcore Hindutva will break the common fabric of Assamese society

      Reply
  3. madhurjya

    AGP is often blamed for not doing anything in the 10 years its been in power. They might have had failures but a blanket blame like that isn’t justified. We do need an alternate to the present Govt. Either of them or a combination but an alternate we need for sure. Democracy needs a viiable opposition

    Reply

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