Tag Archives: BJP

Every constituency has a story – 2014 Assam Elections, a possible tipping point?? – Mangaldoi.


I choose to begin with this constituency for a multiplicity of reasons. It was re-elections into this constituency after the death of MP Hiralal Patowary that brought into prominence the abysmal growth of immigrants of East Bengal origin into Assam and kicked of the Assam agitation. It is an unpredictable constituency, that’s second. But most importantly this constituency would be the closest choice while we look for an Assam in miniature both politically and demographically. Assamese speaking Hindus & Muslims, Immigrant Muslims, Bodos, Tea tribes all mix together is sizeable numbers to decide the result of this constituency. Before we begin an analysis of the constituency, let us have a close look at the results of the yester year elections of the constituent state assemblies of Mangaldoi constituency.

Name of Constituency

2006 Assembly elections

2009 Gen Elections**

2011 Assembly Elections

Kamalpur

INC

BJP

BJP

Rangia

CPI(M)

BJP

INC

Nalbari

AGP

BJP

INC

Panery

BPF

BPF

BPF

Kalaigaon

BPF

BPF

AGP

Sipajhar

INC

INC

INC

Mangaldoi

AGP

AIUDF

INC

Dalgaon

AIUDF

AIUDF

INC

Udalguri

BPF

BPF

BPF

Mazbat

BPF

BPF

BPF

 

**General elections do not declare state assembly constituency wise winners, this is just the majority party in the respective constituency as per number of votes polled.

From 1 assembly seat in 2006 the Congress has come up to 5 seats in 2011. The AGP-BJP combine that fought 2009 elections together have retained the same number put together. With BPF taking 3 of the 3 remaining seats, the AIUDF has been reduced to a zero. If one closely observes the alignment of the Bengali-speaking Muslims towards the Congress party, it is a definite alarm for the BJP to retain this seat. In addition with a clear message in the air that AGP and BJP will fight elections separately one can stop the analysis at this point and state that the seat is going to the Indian National Congress.

But before we stop there are a few points we cannot do away with, the majority Bodo and Muslim population are in a split post the 2008 and 2012 riots with the ABSU stating clearly that they will rally behind a party that supports the cause of the Bodos. It is worth mentioning that BJP was the party at centre that created a separate BTC for the Bodos. It is highly unlikely that both the Bodo and the immigrant Muslim community shall rally behind a similar party i.e the Congress. Also post 2011 elections the AIUDF has started to enter these constituencies with much greater efforts and specially sidelining the congress as a false sympathizer of the Muslims post 2012 riots they have portrayed Badruddin Ajmal as the messiah of all Muslims in Assam. This will definitely cut into the Congress vote base.

Knowing that it is practically impossible for the BPF to win the constituency, a sizeable portion of Bodos might want to choose an indigenous sympathizer and a non Muslim pacifier to be the winning party. Will BJP be able to tap these votes is a question of major concern. The Christian Bodo votes are not coming to the BJP and for obvious reasons. But amongst the Hindu Bodos and particularly in the riot hit areas with the kind of relief operations BJP and its umbrella organizations are involved in there is a good opportunity that lies ahead for them. The number of tea-tribe voters will not exceed beyond few tens of thousands but they do matter. And if BJP sees in them an opportunity knowing that they have been traditional vote banks of the Congress they will need to play the smartest of politics to woo them. With an indigenous plain tribal leader as state president and with a major tea tribe leader leading BJP from the front there is good chance for them to pull sizeable votes from the Bodos and the tea tribes.

BJP cannot expect anything from the Muslim voters be it the Assamese speakers or Bengali speakers minus a few who are not concerned about communal politics and believes only in development. Is this number high enough in Mangaldoi? Certainly not. It is expected that 2014 will see a huge voter turnout and given that the AGP is not in a good shape both Congress and BJP will be giving their best to win the Assamese Hindu voters, Congress with its multiplicity of schemes and BJP with a promise of development. And this is where I begin my final bit of commentary, on the incumbent MP and the works of his.

Ramen Deka was facing a definite weak Congressman in the last elections and his works in the past 5 years have not been really noticeable. This is where I think BJP needs to be a little cautious, with talks of a powerful state minister being pitted from Congress, a RS MP from AGP; BJP will need to decide on each and every clause to choose the right candidate. The AIUDF and BPF cannot certainly win Mangaldoi. If the battle is Ramen Deka vs a Congress stalwart with AGP also in fray then it is a Congress, Congress all the way. If all the equations I posted miraculously falls in favor of BJP with a good candidate, with the PM candidate charisma standing to work then there stands a chance for them to win. In all other probability it will be a congress victory unless AIUDF cuts into its entire Muslim voter base and BPF decides not to contest at all. If AIUDF combines with Congress, we do not even need an election at all.

KMSS and AAP can enjoy the battle but in case they wish to affect the equations, then they can tweak things a bit in favor of the Congress. They certainly cannot make any strong mark

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Every constituency has a story – 2014 Assam Elections, a possible tipping point??


Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh and other congress leaders might want to visit Assam once in a while to regain confidence, relax, feel that there is still some corner left in the country where they can roar like lions and feel like kings. Amongst the arranged army of youth congress, NSUI, mahila congress, x congress & y congress members they also feel a bit secure. Although the people of Assam has no choice but to absorb the stupidity of the Rahuls and Digvijays but 2014 seems set to break the trend. Following that it will be 2 interesting years till 2016.

One can only agree to the fact that the INC since 2001 has only been moving deeper and deeper into the voter bank of Assam. They have miraculously been able to build a strong cadre base of congress supporters in an otherwise regionalism flavored arena. The vigorous inroads made by the Congress has affected society at many nodes and joints. In my recent visits to a few villages of Assam, I witnessed few growing trends; Members of the party being the new aristocrats of the village, crony leaders in each possible circle (his/her maximum credentials being that of a youth/mahila congress ward committee president/secretary) & most painstakingly villages getting divided on party lines after the panchayat elections. Nowhere did I see politics empowering the last person of the democracy, but politics dirtying the last possible emblems of society. It was saddening. I saw young unemployed boys in motorbikes with attitudes of British lords having interest only in knowing which government contract will yield what margin as commission/corruption/collection or whatever you wish to call it. What was interesting a to some degree comforting to note were signs of a tipping point arriving in the near future.

Voices against the congress tactics of misleading public and particularly youths by showering nothing else but crispy notes were very much there in the air. To quote one man here, “the recent youth congress elections seemed larger than any state or national elections; it will decide who will get what syndicates, it is mockery in the name of inner party democracy”. One afternoon while walking to the marketplace of our ancestral village I met a group of school teachers interacting amongst themselves, and I who can hardly stop from joining any “leksar” (Assamese colloquial pronunciation for lecture) joined the ones double my age. It was one of those pleasant afternoons of October in Assam when you don’t wish to move away from the sun, and a few words from that discussion by one gentleman was hinting me that the tipping point is somewhere there.  “.. we know that communalism is bad, but we don’t fear BJP of communalism, we fear Congress of being anti-secular. In 2 of our neighboring districts of Baksa and Chirang we very well know who was playing the communal card and also realize that the congress can go to any extent to appease them… In Barpeta we are already a minority, if BJP doesn’t comes to power we will be shield less… ”. He made it sound simple. Ground level insecurity, anti-incumbency and burning decide the tilt of votes and not studio discussions of left and right. He was clear that BJP could do no more harm to the society of Assam than what Congress and AIUDF had already done. So it was better to have that party that would bring development rather than the ones which have left a bitter taste behind. His logic to me seemed sound. We in our coffee tables call it pseudo-secularism, polarism and favorism of Congress in our jargon. Qualitatively things seemed a little against the congress, but what works are the quantitative figures. Who won what ? Who won how many ?

In 2009 the Congress won 7 seats, the BJP won 4 & the AGP, BPF & AIUDF shared one each in the LS general elections. Since then till now a lot of water has flown by, with an extremely weakened AGP and split in traditional Congress votes things have slowly shifted in towards the BJP. Although a high profile drama just got ended but split within congress is still visible on many occasions and fresh in people’s minds. More importantly for the people of Assam the 2014 elections is a penultimate mandate before the future of the state is decided in 2016. With signs of BJP coming to power in the centre becoming distinctly visible many people have decided or will decide to give BJP a chance. With that if the mandate 2014 is even slightly tilted against the congress I will call 2014 the tipping point. From there on a hardworking BJP & emotionally driven AGP combination or BJP alone will show strong signs of being an alternative. With BPF & Gana Shakti cutting away tribal votes, the AIUDF cutting away the Muslim vote bank of Congress, and BJP making inroads into the urban voters and tea gardens of Assam anything will seem possible in 2016 unlike the previous 2 elections where no choice other than congress looked visible.

Coming to a case by case analysis of all 14 constituencies of Assam, one can surely sense that Dhubri will go to AIUDF. Kaliabor, Autonomous Hills District & Tezpur seems set for Congress. With old congress stalwart Ripun Bora returning into picture and Joseph Toppo under performing in his previous term over and above local leader Padma Hazarika’s rift with central leaders Tezpur is almost out of hands of the AGP. While Nagaon and Silchar seems too good a bet for BJP and Kokrajhar for BPF , the remaining 7 is where tough contest looks likely. In Karimganj it is the AIUDF and the Congress that will battle it out for the seat, Jorhat and Dibrugarh likewise seems to be a tough fight between the BJP and Congress. In Lakhimpur, anti incumbency against Rani Narah is appearing from the surface but a lot depends on the candidates the opposition pits against her. Nail biting finishes are set to occur in Guwahati, Barpeta and Mangaldai. With equal probability to all scenarios the ending figure will come close to AIUDF (2-3), BJP (3-5), BPF (1), AGP (0-2) & INC (4-6).  Qualitatively rise of AIUDF & fall of Congress with marginal rise of BJP seems evident. Although circles would want to dismiss a Modi wave, but it is certainly there as I felt across various regions of Assam. In addition, the new face of BJP in Assam through Sarbananda Sonowal and consolidation of urban and change hungry voting base is set to deliver something incremental for the BJP. The biggest worry of the state BJP unit was the absence of a leader people see as their own and wish to see as the CM. That is why traditionally even with power and numbers falling down AGP was placed above BJP in the race to be the people’s choice. With a back broken AGP and ex-AGP MP and ex-AASU leader Sarbananda Sonowal as the BJP state leader, Assam looks all set to make space for the other national party.

If all of this converges in BJP equalizing with Congress in 2014 then the road to 2016 will be much more fiercely fought, much more democratic with choice. More so because as long as AASU wants to play safe being the non-political whistle blower without making their own hands dirty more and more will regionalism loose in terms of political votes. AGP without a youth wing has already become grey. More and more the AASU tries to distance itself from politics trying to win the good share of everything and the bad share of nothing, more and more will the people of Assam distance itself from regionalism. Right wing nationalism might not be the end of the road for Assam, but through that people would want to see the non-congress side of affairs. It is important as well, for with each passing day one liners by Tarun Gogoi are becoming more and more unbearable.

(Begining the series of each constituency has a story. This will be follwed by 14 detailed articles on the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Assam. With my limited knowledge of highend affairs I hope to be able to present a close to real picture from ground. Your support and feedback is most welcomed)

Sarbananda Sonowal & BJP: Expectations & Possibilities


IMG_0883

On 15th of November when Ex MP Sarbananda Sonowal took charge of State BJP in Assam it sent a wave of hope, confusion, dilemma and expectation in the minds of every thinking citizen of Assam. Queries that have erupted might range from “will this be the beginning of a solution to the problem of infiltration?” to “is this the end of Asom Gana Parishad?”, most certainly the appointment of Mr Sonowal to the coveted post would mean that the choice of BJP as a political option would open for many who believe in the dynamic, young and motivated leader that is Sarbananda Sonowal. Concern still remain as to how will the BJP that has forever been seen as nationalist right winged Hindutva party amalgamate the regionalist expectations of the people of Assam. Furthermore it would be important to see if friction occurs between the traditional vote banks of BJP i.e the Bengali and Hindi Speaking Hindu populace because of the addition of a staunch indigenous flavor to the state unit of the party. Following his appointment these would be the questions to which Mr Sonowal have to find answers in order to push forward the agenda of BJP and in future hope for gaining mileage for the national party in the state of Assam.

Sarbananda Sonowal during Assam assembly election campaigning in 2006 as an AGP MP; Brindaban Goswami, then AGP President seen with Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) and Jaya Prada during campaigning for the regional party .

Given the circumstances BJP has a plethora of issues to pick choose from and add to its national recognition of being a “party that performs” and carve out a unique space for itself in the political map of the region. But if we traverse the geography of Assam from one end to the other then we will find clashing interests and divided opinions, basically challenges for a party to build up a comprehensive strategy. What are these expectations and where does the BJP stand amidst such issues and how can it possibly gain is what we wish to analyze.

The tea tribes and the hill tribes both have been a traditional vote bank of the Congress party. With BJP making inroads into Assam it was visible that a fraction of the tea tribe votes had shifted in favor of BJP majorly because of the upsurge of leaders like Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, Rameshwar Teli in the BJP from within the tea tribe community. But the election of 2011 halted the trend and it will be a test for the BJP to make its presence stronger in times to come. It is worth noting that BJP has a strong presence among this very community spread across the states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.  All the three states where BJP enjoys the current term as government has seen a lot of development projects being undertaken in the field of education, health, alternate livelihood generation by organizations close to the BJP such as the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Ekal Vidyalaya etc since many years and is now continuing under the  respective current governments. This has helped the BJP in gaining popularity among the various tribes of the region. Considering the lack of development among the tea tribes as well as the hill tribes of Assam the Bharatiya Janata Party must necessarily follow the trend it set in the states of MP, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by spreading education and social development to the areas inhabited by these people in order to alter the traditional voting pattern and try to gain some advantage. To bring this in effect Sarbananda Sonowal must fast pace the philanthropic work and then convincingly motivate a huge pool of cadres from among these communities who can convince their people to come out of prejudiced and blind notions of political parties and to vote based on possibilities and growth opportunities.

In 2008 and in 2012 the BJP has been very vocal and crystal clear with regard to their stand on the ethnic violence that had erupted in BTC. Although the pro-indigenous stand taken by the BJP has not directly made an impact on the Bodo people but one cannot deny the possibility of the BJP gaining from the recent friction visible between the Congress and the Bodo People’s Front. Given that BJP was the party in power at centre that initiated the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council in 2003 and got mass Bodo support in certain Bodo majority constituencies like Mangaldoi during 2004 LS elections there is a possibility of an understanding that remains. The challenge for the new BJP state president would be to get close to the Bodo leadership and build its greater political policy in sync with the Bodo people’s aspirations of protecting their land and identity and at the same time try to reduce the Bodo-Assamese divide which will provide big mileage to Mr Sonowal in the form of enhancing his image as a leader of caliber and secondly to repulse the Congress from gaining due to such divides. By virtue of being a tribal leader belonging to the Sonowal-Kachari clan many see him as an ultimate choice for the tribal population of the valley. Bringing his speaking skills and legal battling capacity Mr Sonowal must rightly address the prime issues faced by the plains tribal’s i.e. of big dams, flood & erosion and protection of indigenous cultural identity. By doing this he will stand out as one unique leader who will be able to walk ahead with the support of both the mainstream Assamese and the tribal population thereby bridging the gap that exists between the communities and therefore gaining strongly in these otherwise Congress strongholds.

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The mainstream Assamese has for long been deprived of an alternative to the Congress. Massive anti incumbency has not been able to uproot the Congress primarily because of the lack of faith the people of Assam has in the AGP and its leaders. With the rise of BJP in state politics of Assam the popular press will paint it with the Hindutva image and will try its best to highlight its clash with the regional ambitions of the middle class Assamese. The might of Sarbananda Sonowal as a leader shall get tested here where he will have to appease both the Assamese speakers and the non-Assamese population with clear distinction of the what regionalism stands for and how it doesn’t affect the concept of an Indian Nation. To achieve this he will have to very carefully tailor a model of sustainable development in consultations with BJP leaders from across the state belonging to various communities which ensures that the indigenous rights are protected and at the same time able to satisfy the aspirations of growth and development of the mainland Hindi and Bengali speakers. Leaders like Prodyut Bora, Siddhartha Bhattacharya who are seen as white collar progressive leaders should be the principle ones aiding Mr Sonowal in this process of conceptualization and execution. Given that the Congress government in the state has been able to bring certain visible symptoms of development, it will be a daunting task for the BJP led by Sonowal to convince people of the uniqueness an effectiveness of its model in comparison to the Congress model of development. Mr Sonowal can also take inspiration from his counterparts of other states like Goa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar etc where vibrant growth stories have been able to bind all imaginations together under one fold.

In short to stand as an alternative to the Congress and ahead of the AGP will be the principle mantra for Sarbananda Sonowal and his party. He will have the distinct advantage of having a clean image, credibility of being a performing politician, strength to be vocal about the interests of Assam. To add to this no party in Assam have come out directly against the AIUDF or Badruddin Ajmal in the past elections. It is worthwhile to note that a sizeable percentage of the population of Assam has major grievances with the way AIUDF is running the show in Assam. BJP might gain from Sarbananda Sonowal openly criticizing the AIUDF thereby appeasing that section of the population that wants to see it and was unhappy with the growing closeness between the AGP and the AIUDF. Coming from the All Assam Students Union Mr Sonowal definitely holds a respectful position among the cadres of regionalism and is still seen as a youth leader of dynamic quality. Whether he will be able to motivate a sizeable number of these youths to stand by him will determine most of his future as a political leader.

Whether victory or defeat, improvement or degradation, growth or reduction happens to BJP is a little uncertain for challenges are tall and opposition is steep but that the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam will not remain the same with Mr Sonowal coming to become the face of the party in Assam is certain. His organization skills, oratory, fearlessness and foresightedness will all add up to what we now only know as the destiny of BJP in Assam. As he had repeatedly confirmed many times that Atal Bihari Vajpayee remains his political idol he will have to closely follow one statement from the Ex PM of India which he delivered in his famous speech defending his 13 day Govt. in the Lok Sabha: “Satta ke lobh mein ake maine aajtak kuch nahi kiya” (I haven’t done anything till date for the greed of forming a government). For everyone who hopes of a bright future for Assam will only pray that Sarbananda Sonowal brings together all the issues of Assam under one umbrella and balances them in equal proportion and adds to it glimpses of possible solution to receive support from all section of society and then let his actions speak bigger than his words.