All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Badruddin Ajmal has said the Congress will be blamed for the division of “secular” votes if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the assembly elections in Assam.
“If BJP wins because of division of secular votes, it is Congress who will be responsible,” Ajmal posted on Twitter early on Monday, the day of the second and final phase of polling in the state.
Coming in the midst of the elections, the statement is being widely read by political analysts as Ajmal’s acknowledgement of the BJP’s possible victory in Assam.
The BJP had emerged as a strong player in the northeastern state in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when it bagged seven of the 14 parliamentary seats with an impressive vote share of 36.5%. The Congress and Ajmal’s party won three seats each.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Ajmal also revealed that his party had approached the Congress for “some understanding” two days ago. “But Congress rejected our offer,” he said. “They rather are hell bent to divide secular votes.”
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had opposed any alliance with Ajmal’s party on the ground that a tie-up with a “communal oufit” like AIUDF will benefit the BJP.
A section in the party also supported Gogoi, arguing that the Congress will “lose badly” in Hindu majority Upper Assam if it forged an alliance with Ajmal. The party had won maximum seats in last three assembly elections from this area.
For his part, Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar had also tried to play the peacemaker between the Congress and AIUDF and form a Bihar-style grand alliance to thwart the BJP’s aggressive bid at capturing power in Assam. The Bihar chief minister was of the view that a multi-cornered contest on any seat would “certainly benefit” the BJP.
The perfume baron-turned-politician too had rejected all “direct and indirect feelers” from the Congress for an alliance as he did not want to share the burden of the ruling party’s 15 years of anti-incumbency.
But that appears to have been mere public posturing as he himself admitted on the eve of final phase of polling that his party had repeatedly approached the Congress for a tie-up.
“We tried our best to form an alliance with Congress. But unfortunately they did not agree,” Ajmal said.
Ajmal had floated the AIUDF as an alternative to the Congress which he had accused of “using” the state’s sizeable 30% Muslims electorate as merely a vote bank.
The Bihar CM’s chief election strategist and advisor Prashant Kishor had also visited the state before the election and given his feedback to JD(U) leaders who then conveyed to Congress leaders that their party is likely to end up with less than 20 seats if it continues to project Gogoi as the CM candidate.
The JD(U) had suggested that it will be “appropriate to project a fresh and young” leadership in the state to energise the Congress cadres, especially after several of its senior leaders have joined the BJP following differences with Gogoi.
However, the Congress rejected the move, forcing Kumar to abandon his plan to replicate his Bihar-style mahagathbandhan formula in Assam.
“Nitish Kumarji, Lalu Yadavji also tried their best to work out a grand alliance including Congress, AGP, BPF, JD(U), RJD and all other secular forces,” Ajmal said in one of his latest tweets. “Prashant Kishor also spoke to Rahul Gandhi in this regard,” he added.
The AIUDF had initially hoped to increase its tally from the present 18 with a vote share of 12.57%. Out of the total 126 seats, the Congress with a vote share of 39.39% had won 78.
While the BJP had bagged five seats and its vote share stood at 11.47%, the AGP won 10 seats and secured a vote share of 16. 29%.