Thirty years after making their electoral debut in Assam in 1985, the fortunes of the BJP and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) appear to have reversed. The national party is now the ‘big brother’ to the regional party, despite having won fewer seats in every election since.
The AGP was born in 1985, soon after its members in their earlier avatar as student leaders signed the Assam Accord to end a six-year agitation to rid the state of illegal migrants. It rode an emotional wave to bag 67 of the 126 assembly seats in the year-ending election.
The BJP cut a sorry figure in that election. It could muster only 3.56% votes and 34 of its 37 contestants forfeited their deposits.
The AGP, however, was never the same. Its best performance since 1985 was in the 1996 election where it won 59 seats — five less than a simple majority in the House.
The BJP’s performance has improved since 1985 but it has never been able to win more than 10 seats (1991 and 2006) or more than 26.31% of the vote share that translated into only eight seats in 2001.
Much of BJP’s optimism this election is based on its 2014 Lok Sabha show where it won seven parliamentary seats riding the Narendra Modi wave.
Poll pundits say the two parties have taken more of their disadvantages along in their bid to win mandate 2016 together. “The AGP could not be a pan-Assam party because of the state’s ethnic diversity. The BJP too has limitations when it comes to appealing to communities that account for more than a third of Assam’s population,” political observer Dilip Chandan said.
Others agree that the BJP’s rise in Assam has been more at the expense of AGP than the Congress.