Assam’s millionaire perfume baron and politician Badruddin Ajmal on Thursday put paid to the Congress’s efforts for a Bihar-style grand alliance in the state that goes to the polls next year, rejecting any tie-up with longtime rival and chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief, whose party holds considerable sway in the state’s Muslim-majority areas, said “he will have no truck” with Gogoi or his party.
“Why should I share the burden of their 15 years of anti-incumbency? Gogoi and his government are a discredited lot. I have always maintained equidistance from both the Congress and BJP,” he told Hindustan Times.
Ajmal’s summary rejection to Gogoi’s proposal jeopardised his efforts to cobble up an anti-BJP coalition prior to the polls, due in March-April 2016. The chief minister had rejected similar overtures from Ajmal in the thick of the previous assembly election.
But Gogoi, facing anti-incumbency after three consecutive terms, has apparently sent feelers to the AIUDF in a desperate bid to retain power. He is eyeing Ajmal’s party, once dubbed “communal”, as well as the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and other anti-BJP forces for a coalition modeled on the successful JD(U)-RJD-Congress “mahagathbandhan” in Bihar.
His anxiety stems from the BJP’s rise as a strong player in the northeastern state after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when it bagged seven of 14 parliamentary seats with an impressive vote share of 36.5%. The Congress and Ajmal’s party won three each.
With 18 MLAs in the 126-member House, the AIUDF is the second-largest party after the Congress in the outgoing assembly. Its vote share then stood at 12.57%. But a more than 2% increase in the AIUDF vote share from 2011 assembly to 2014 Lok Sabha polls points to consolidation of Muslim votes, which account for the 30% of the total electorate.
The AIUDF hopes to increase its tally and keep its post-poll options open. “Let’s see how many seats we get first... We’ll definitely perform better than 2011. Once we do that, all post-poll options will be explored,” said Ajmal, who has made his fortune in the scent business in west Asia.
(Inputs from Digambar Patowary in Guwahat)