Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s plan to hold five rallies in the northeast is no indication of a tie-up with its formal ally, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). In fact, the Sangh Parivar feels the party should face the electorate alone in Assam.
Senior party leaders told Hindustan Times that an alliance with AGP was remote as the former ally was not expected to bring in any incremental vote to the BJP and may end up sending a wrong message to its traditional voter. The conclusion was arrived at after discussions within the state unit and the Sangh Parivar.
The BJP plans to hold three election rallies in Assam, one in Itanagar in Arunachal and another one in Gangtok in January 2014 with an outside chance of a rally in Imphal.
While AGP President Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said: “Any talk of revival of alliance with BJP is premature,” BJP’s Assam unit president Sarbananda Sonowal said: “Expanding the party base is our main priority at this juncture, not alliance.”
Other leaders of both parties said there are hints yet of reviving the decade-old alliance. The divorce followed assessment of electoral performances by AGP and pressure from within on Mahanta — readmitted into the party in 2008 after banishment in 2005 — not to align with a party with a communal tag.
It all began in 2001, when faced with an anti-incumbency wave, then chief minister Mahanta forged a pre-poll alliance with BJP. The alliance proved counter-productive for AGP that won 23 seats, but was beneficial for the BJP which bagged 10 seats — remarkable for a party in a state that finds it difficult to align with its Hindutva agenda.
In the 2006 assembly elections, the AGP’s tally came down to 21 while the BJP held on to its 2001 score of 10 seats.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP and AGP got two seats each out of a maximum of 14 seats. In 2009, the BJP doubled its tally to four seats while the AGP managed only one. This cemented the belief that the BJP’s rise was at the expense of the AGP.
This was reflected in the 2011 assembly elections with the AGP winning only 10 seats. The BJP managed five seats — half of its 2006 tally — but the performance was attributed to the Congress playing the Hindu Bengali card to capture southern Assam’s Barak Valley that had been with the BJP earlier.