Tag Archives: Congress

2014 General Elections – Dibrugarh


Till 2004 Dibrugarh was one of the 4 constituencies in the entire country that never ever fell to a non Congress party. Then came the firebrand AASU leader Sarbanada Sonowal contesting on an AGP ticket who brought an end to the endless Congress victory. In 2004 Kamakhya Prasad Tasa from BJP came second with congress stalwart Paban Singh Ghatowar finishing third. Back in 2009 when AGP and BJP combined, Sarbananda finished behind Paban Singh Ghatowar in the ultimate race. Two different equation, different results. This time around the equation is even more tweaked; Sarbanada Sonowal is now the State BJP president and will most likely contest from Dibrugarh on a BJP ticket and has Kamakhya Prasad Tasa as a close aide helping him form a base around the tea tribe community which till now had been Paban Singh Ghatowar’s pocket votes.

Slides
The story of Dibrugarh in win-loss for the last 3 elections has been such:

Name of Constituency 2006 Assembly elections 2009 General Elections 2011 Assembly Elections

Moran

INC

INC

INC

Dibrugarh

BJP

AGP-BJP

BJP

Lahowal

INC

INC

INC

Duliajan

BJP

INC

INC

Tingkhong

AGP

INC

INC

Naharkatia

INC

AGP-BJP

INC

Tinisukia

INC

INC

INC

Digboi

INC

INC

INC

Margherita

INC

INC

INC

Although Congress won 8 of the 9 constituency seats in 2011 assembly elections yet 2014 will be a close contest. 3 years have passed on. Anti incumbency will run on the forefront in the Dibrugarh constituency being the home constituency of the BJP state supremo. Prashanta Phukan, the current MLA of Dibrugarh has been highly successful in motivating the urban population of Dibrugarh district against the rising issues faced during the years of Congress rule namely inflation, corruption, mis governance and the list goes on. In addition the BJP has to its advantage in the coming elections the Narendra Modi card which is expected to play well among the Hindi speaking population of Tinisukia and its adjoining areas. In Assam, Dibrugarh would be the constituency in second position when it comes to a count of urban voters. As the nation senses a strong wave among the middle class urban voters in favor of Narendra Modi, the effect might actually change the voting patterns in Dibrugarh, Duliajan, Tinisukia & Digboi areas. The tea garden belt and the Nepali speakers still remain as a reason of deep concern for the BJP and its star candidate Sarbanada Sonowal.

What Congress has as a major strong point is the presence of an extreme loyal voter base in the pockets of Dibrugarh. Even during the worst days of the Assam Agitation 5 of the 9 assembly constituencies that comes under Dibrugarh LS constituency fell to the INC. The loyal base comprises of the tea garden belt, the Nepali-Hindi speaking population. The Assamese population of the area mostly comprising of the Ahoms, Moran, Mataks and caste Hindus have surprisingly rallied behind the Congress for long. The INC ideology or call it freedom struggle nostalgia runs deep even among the mainstream population in these parts of Assam. BJP will have to target the section of first time voters among the Assamese mainstream, that is where its kill will lie. The INC has always enjoyed this position at Kaliabor, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. Moreover with a central cabinet minister position being given to Paban Singh Ghatowar, he has been able to implement a couple of schemes and projects in the areas. Not the best an MP can do, but still something for the people to see. From a stalwart student leader representing the tea tribes till national politics Paban Singh Ghatowar has been a heart throb of his people. Chances that BJP with a development agenda will be able to slash a few thousand votes from here are still difficult to imagine. Kamakhya Prasad Tasa does have a good rapport among the tea tribes, but will those votes turn back in favor of Sarbanada Sonowal is uncertain. They have to work very hard for this.
Cadre strength is one of the important variables when it comes to the question of winnability of a given candidate. With a long lying AASU career track behind and being seen as a person able to scrap the IMDT act, Mr Sonowal is still well respected and looked up to in the regionalist circles even after he joined the national party. It will be a test for him to motivate the entire cadre base of anti-congress voters in favor of BJP which till date hasn’t been so easy for BJP in Assam. The INC can boast of an extremely strong cadre base in Upper Assam. Yuva Congress, Mahila Congress, NSUI etc will romp in with all their strength in 2014, might even resort to anything under the sun. To beat such kind of a force, all that people considers Sarbanada Sonowal’s ability, his oratory, hard work, motivating capacity will come to test.

A recent positive development for the BJP is the inroad it has made into the Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council. Obviously Sarbananda Sonowal himself being a Sonowal Kachari has helped them in the process and provided this continues till 2014, a certain number of votes from the plains tribes will shift from Congress to BJP. The other question that seems to be instrumental in the coming election is the question of ST status to Maran, Matak & Adivasis. The congress has not come out clearly on this where as time and again the BJP has voiced for the protection of the indigenous. This but is a far stretch, if a clear one line message comes from the BJP as an election promise in favor of the ST status then it will definitely change fortunes for Sarbananda Sonowal.

The AIUDF & AGP is far behind in the race for Dibrugarh. Although AGP won in 2004 it was more a victory of Sarbananda Sonowal. So the race for Dibrugarh is a clear BJP vs Congress battle. The margin in 2009 elections was 35,143 votes. In a general election that can be considered a small margin. Will Sarbanada Sonowal and BJP be able to bring down that difference in their favor remains a question? AGP cutting down on BJP votes is surprisingly not so much of an issue of concern as when it comes to Dibrugarh it is difficult to think of anyone other than Sarbananda whom AGP could have had projected strongly. Also the wave is such that in 2014 anti Congress votes are getting routed to BJP. The recent performance in GMC elections, Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council elections of the BJP makes me believe that they are serious about Assam. Although I predict a neck to neck fight I will put my money on Sarbananda Sonowal over Paban Singh Ghatowar.

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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