Assam's main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has sealed a pact with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite the combination failing to defeat the Congress earlier, and promised to make the campaign against illegal migration in the state shriller in the days ahead.
The tie-up was finalised in New Delhi Thursday at a meeting between the two parties. "To save India, we must save Assam from illegal infiltrators who go to others states after entering Assam. That can be achieved by this tie-up and our effort at uniting all the anti-Congress forces," BJP leader LK Advani said.
Although the BJP sounded aggressive, the AGP, which has been out of power for a decade, was tentative in its approach.
"We have not joined the National Democratic Alliance (led by the BJP), we are only going to have a seat-sharing with the BJP to topple the Congress in Assam," AGP president Chandramohan Patowary said.
Observers are circumspect over the tie-up and are wondering if the AGP would be able to garner extra votes, translated into extra seats, with this alliance. The inability of the combine to corner votes in the past is cited as the reason for this doubt.
Till its alliance with the BJP, the AGP was seen to be working closely with the state's other major opposition group, the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) headed by perfume baron Badruddin Ajjmal.
It was seen as a potential threat to the ruling Congress because the AUDF is a predominantly Muslim-based party that had won 10 seats in the state assembly in its maiden foray into electoral politics in 2006. The AUDF has since distanced itself from the AGP after the latter moved closer to the BJP.
The AGP in the 2001 assembly elections had a pre-poll alliance with the BJP although the combination was routed by the Congress party. The AGP and BJP leaders later accused each other of sabotaging their own prospects in the 2001 polls.
The AGP won 23 seats in 2001 and the BJP bagged just four seats. In the 2006 Assam assembly elections, the AGP won 19 seats and the BJP 10.
Already, there are murmurs of protest from within the AGP and the BJP as well with some leaders bent on holding on to certain prestigious parliamentary seats.
"The question of leaving the Guwahati parliamentary seat to the BJP does not arise at all. The AGP would contest from Guwahati," senior AGP leader Kamala Kalita said recently.
Some BJP leaders have also said in the past few weeks that they would not leave five of the total 14 parliamentary seats in Assam to the AGP.
The Congress party, however, is unfazed by the developments and said cracks have surfaced even before the two parties could forge an alliance.
"It is now sure that the AGP and the BJP has acknowledged they cannot fight the Congress alone and even after their bitter 2001 experience, both of them were once again trying to have an alliance," Haren Das, a senior Congress party leader, said.