The BJP on Tuesday hijacked the Asom Gana Parishad's anti-migrant face to give its former regional ally a rude shock ahead of the assembly elections in Assam.
The elections to the 126-member House are expected by May.
Former Lok Sabha MP Sarbananda Sonowal, also a former president of the potent All Assam Students' Union (AASU), had been the AGP's most vocal leader on the issue of influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants into Assam and the Northeast.
He was instrumental in the Supreme Court verdict against the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act that many believed was loaded in favour of aliens, particularly from Bangladesh. The apex court termed the Act 'unconstitutional' and struck it down on 12 July 2005.
Addressing a rally after formally joining the BJP in eastern Assam's Dibrugarh town, Sonowal said: "Two reasons made me join the BJP. First, I found the AGP deviating from its aims and objectives and second, the BJP that has been most vocal on the issue of infiltration in recent times.”
The AGP was born after the anti-foreigners agitation (1979-1985) for ejection of illegal Bangladeshi migrants from Assam and protection the rights of the indigenous people. "But the AGP seems to be deviating from its paty by coming closer to a party formed to protect the interests of illegal migrants. The BJP is the best platform for re-launching my crusade against illegal Bangladeshi nationals," Sonowal said.
He stopped short of naming the minority-specific All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) led by Lok Sabha MP and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal. The AGP and AIUDF have been holding parleys for a possible electoral tie-up after the former severed its alliance with the BJP last year.
AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary put up a brave face, saying Sonowal's loss won't be felt much by his "reunited and rejuvenated" party. All the factions of AGP had under him merged with the parent party in October 2008.
But BJP is confident of a better electoral show compared to 2006 – it won 10 seats then but four switched over to the Congress last year – with the "Sonowal boost". Party president Nitin Gadkari hinted at giving Sonowal a stature worthy of a 'national leader'.