AIUDF fears poaching by BJP, flies 18 candidates to Rajasthan
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) on Friday flew 18 of its 20 candidates, who contested the just-concluded assembly elections in Assam, to Jaipur in Congress-ruled Rajasthan saying it feared the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will resort to “dirty tricks” and try to influence them.
The third and the last phase of polling was held in Assam on Tuesday. The results of the polls will be declared on May 2 when votes would be counted in West Bengal, where five phases of balloting are left, and two other states and Puducherry.
Political parties in Assam have started keeping their candidates under check over fears of possible poaching as they expect a tighter contest. AIUDF is part of the Congress-led alliance in Assam that hopes to wrest power from the BJP.
“Likelihood of the BJP indulging in dirty tricks and trying to influence our candidates prompted the decision [of flying the candidates to Jaipur]. After the hectic poll campaign, our candidates wanted to undertake a pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif Dargah. Hence, that was also a reason for the trip,” said Md Aminul Islam, AIUDF’s organising secretary, who is accompanying the candidates.
Islam said the BJP, which targeted the AIUDF and linked it to undocumented immigration to Assam from Bangladesh during the campaigning, is going to lose the election. “...they have only one option left... [and will try] to influence MLAs [members of legislative assembly] from other parties to switch sides with various inducements. That is why we need to be careful. We have already seen what happened after assembly polls in Goa and Manipur earlier,” said Islam. “We want to show that all our candidates are united.”
Islam said their return date has not been fixed yet. “Most likely that [return] will happen prior to May 2.”
AIUDF, which won 13 out of 126 seats in the Assam assembly in 2016, enjoys influence among Bengali Muslims. Its allies, the Congress and Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), were also expected to move their candidates outside Assam.
Congress leader Debabrata Saikia said he has heard about AIUDF’s move but has no idea if Congress will follow suit. “It is now clear that our alliance would form the next government and it would not be surprising if the BJP indulges in horse-trading to retain power,” he said.
BJP spokesman Subhash Dutta dismissed AIUDF’s move as drama. “Our party is winning the election with a very comfortable majority and we are not bothered about what their candidates are doing,” he said.
In 2016, BJP won 60 seats and came to power in Assam for the first time with the support of Asom Gana Parishad and BPF.
Akhil Ranjan Dutta, a professor at Gauhati University, said in some other states, the largest political parties were not invited to form the government while others cobbled up alliances to claim power. “All political parties are vulnerable and the fear of poaching of candidates is real,” he said. “Except perhaps for Left parties, it is now seen that candidates of most political parties do not have ideological and political commitment. Political parties also do not seem to have control over their representatives.”
On April 1, Rangja Khungur Basumatary, a BPF candidate, joined the BJP just five days prior to the polling. BPF moved the Election Commission and the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of the election to the seat, but the request was rejected.