In Assam, talks on Congress-backed third front to keep BJP at bay

  • Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
  • Updated: May 18, 2016 22:33 IST
In this file photo, BJP candidate Sarbananda Sonowal during his election campaign in Majuli, Assam. (Subhendu Ghosh/HT Photo)

Regional parties in Assam are exploring the idea of a third front, possibly backed by the Congress party, if the BJP-led alliance or the Congress fails to reach the numbers to form government in the northeastern state.

Although exit polls predicted on Monday a win for the BJP and allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), rivals are not ruling out the possibility of a hung assembly.

The Congress and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) hope to “do much better than predicted”, but admit the wind might not be in their favour.

Ajmal has even proposed former chief minister and senior AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta as the CM of a third front government that could be backed by the Congress.

“We are preparing for the third front with Mahanta as the chief minister, but everything depends on the outcome,” Ajmal said.

The AIUDF feels the Congress party might support such a coalition government to “save Assam from the BJP brand of divisive politics”. The Congress has neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.

The idea gained ground after Mahanta indicated last week that ally AGP was reluctant to accept Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal as chief minister of the BJP-led alliance.

“Sonowal is the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, not ours. We want the post discussed on the joint platform of the alliance partners,” he said.

BJP’s Guwahati MP, Bijoya Chakraborty, ridiculed Mahanta, saying his “greed for the CM’s chair” was evident.

Another party MP, Rajen Gohain, said Mahanta should have spoken his mind when the BJP and the AGP struck the deal two months ago.

“AGP will benefit the most in the polls because of its alliance with BJP. The regional party would have drawn a blank had it contested alone,” Gohain said.

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