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Assam Elections 2016: Agendas of Political Parties

April 3, 2016

The political agenda is clear for every key player in Assam these elections. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) charted their agenda of allying with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The ruling Congress, not taking any chance against a perceived anti-incumbency, has maintained a distance from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) while the latter’s agenda is to keep its Muslim support base intact to play a kingmaker in case of hung assembly in the state.

Assam Elections Agenda

AIUDF’s Election Agenda

The AIUDF Chief Badruddin Ajmal even hinted at a post-election alliance with the Congress in the state but it’s wary of annoying indigenous voters. The Congress has refrained from making any public commitment over the issue. It may be mentioned that the AIUDF with 18 seats was the second largest party in the state assembly, and since 2005, it did consolidate its position among migrant Muslims in the state. Its agenda is clear – to keep its flock of migrant Muslims together for a better bargain post elections.

BJP’s Poll Agenda Focuses on Illegal Muslim Immigrants

This suits the BJP agenda though. The BJP President Amit Shah recently hit back stating in an election rally that “both Congress and AIUDF are not interested in solving this problem (of illegal immigrants) as they indulge in vote-bank politics”. He has deftly linked the issue with the development of the state.

Sensing its chance to upstage the ruling Congress over the incumbency factor as the veteran chief minister Tarun Gogoi has been in power in the state for the last 15 years, the BJP, besides forging alliance with regional groups, AGP and BPF, now vigorously rakes up the Bangladeshi Muslim issue in a bid to consolidate its Hindu vote bank in the state. It has 34 per cent Muslims, making it the second highest Muslim population in the country.

The fact that Assam also had the highest growth rate of 3.3 per cent in Muslim population among all states of the country as per the 2011 census, has helped the right-wing Hindutva brigade to fire from all cylinders during the polls, particularly after the party had reaped rich dividends by playing up the Muslim migrant card in the 2014 general elections and won seven of 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014.

In the BJP’s scheme of things, it seems crucial how to keep alive this sensitive issue of communal polarization in the communally sensitive state, so what if its opponents have cried foul over this “sinister” poll agenda! It is nothing but a tactical ploy of the BJP to make gain in the poll bound state, particularly after its disastrous performance in the 2011 state elections where it could win only five of the 126 seats. Its alliance partners, the AGP and BPF, had respectively won nine and 12 seats then.

BJP’s Policy of Wooing Hindu Voters

The BJP’s vision document 2016-2015, released on the poll eve, promises to solve the illegal immigration problem by sealing the Indo-Bangladesh border. But this is not enough. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has even vowed to disenfranchise millions of Muslim immigrants in the state. To woo the Hindus, his party men now promise to identify and deport younger illegal migrants. An important agenda is to directly target an “ageing” chief minister Tarun Gogoi for encouraging unchecked immigration from Bangladesh for the Congress’s vote bank politics, and hence damaging the demography of the state.

It may be mentioned that the issue of illegal immigrants has been raked up in every election since 1983. However, with a majority government at the Centre, this is the time when the party hopes to capitalise the most by raking up the issue. The party’s state leadership now promises “complete sealing of the India-Bangladesh border” in Assam and more Central funds for 2016-2020 as compared to 2011-2015.

Congress Harps on Extra-judicial Killings

Therefore, it is little surprise that the Congress prefers to refer to the extra-judicial killings of 400 kin of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) members between 1998 and 2001 during the AGP rule in the state with the support of the then NDA government. Ever since the 2001 elections, this issue was in backburner. Chief Minister Gogoi now rakes up the issue not just to point out his government’s success in containing the ULFA insurgency but also to dilute the illegal infiltration issue. However, with prominent Congressmen deserting the party, it is quite clear that to achieve success, the BJP has worked quite diligently on its “agenda” of breaking the state Congress before the elections! Any doubt there?

Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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