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Assam polls: Cong sure, test for minority party

The Congress in Assam is confident of a third straight victory in the assembly polls due by May, but there is also a buzz around a minority party, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), out to prove it isn't a one-election wonder.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2011 00:34 IST
Rahul Karmakar

The Congress in Assam is confident of a third straight victory in the assembly polls due by May, but there is also a buzz around a minority party, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), out to prove it isn't a one-election wonder.

The AIUDF won 10 seats in the 2006 assembly poll and dented the Congress' record in minority areas. Muslims hold the edge in at least 35 of the 126 seats.

The talks surrounding the AIUDF are a result of its comparison with a similar party - the United Minorities Front (UMF) - that had won 11 seats in 1985.

The UMF was a contemporary of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). Both were sired by the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation (1979-85), but the AGP fought for indigenous communities under perceived demographic threat and the UMF batted for migrants "victimised as Bangladeshis".

The illegal immigrants issue has figured in Assam's electoral arena since then, but the UMF lost steam by the next poll in 1991.

Perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal formed the AIUDF in 2005 after the Supreme Court quashed the allegedly pro-migrant Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983. Two AIDUF legislators have switched over to the Congress, but Ajmal says, "These aberrations won't affect us."

The Congress has also absorbed four of BJP's 10 legislators, one of AGP's 24 and some independents to take its tally to 64. It won 54 seats in 2006 - down from 73 in 2001 - and was forced to partner the Bodoland Peoples' Front (10 seats) to form the government.

Now, the Congress is appearing sure-footed. The release of leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom and National Democratic Front of Boroland has raised hopes of a solution to three decades of insurrection.

"Indigenous or settlers, people are smart enough to know who can deliver," says chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

Political scientists say the Congress confidence also stems from the AGP's severance of electoral ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP believes its prospects are good. "We are in a position to form the next government," says the party's Assam in-charge Varun Gandhi.

Party position in Assam Assembly
Total seats
126
Congress
64
†AGP
24
*Bodoland People's Front
10
AIUDF
8 (won 10 seats in 2006)
BJP
6 (won 10 in 2006)
CPM
2
CPI
1
**Independent
11

(†AGP tally increased to 25 after Prafulla Kumar Mahanta rejoined party but one MLA defected to Congress later on; *Congress' ruling ally; **10 are associate members of Congress; defectors from AGP, BJP, AIUDF and some independents helped Congress take seat strength to 64 from 54 won in 2006)