Since 1998, the Congress has practically swept all Lok Sabha polls in Assam. Its victory run was largely due to a split-prone Opposition.
For the first time in over a decade, Mandate 2009 has the Congress worried about this northeastern state. One reason is the alliance between the BJP and the new-look, reunited Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). The other is a new political player — Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), a Muslim party. That the Congress has been a bit edgy is apparent from its bid to expose a tacit understanding between the “communal” BJP-AGP and the AUDF.
According to the two challengers, the Congress' desperation is because of a strong possibility of drawing a blank in the 3 seats where polls were held on April 16 in the first phase. Now, Congress' worry is the perceived shift of the Muslim vote bank to the pro-minorities AUDF.
Muslims, comprising 32 per cent of Assam’s population, hold the key in six of the 11 seats. “History says the Muslim votes have always been divided between the Congress and non-Congress parties. It’s no different this time," CM Tarun Gogoi said.
But Congress insiders agree its second largest vote bank — the adivasis or tea tribes — has eroded to some extent with both the AGP and BJP making inroads. The adivasi vote is crucial in the remaining five seats.