Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma during an election rally ahead of Assam assembly polls. New political outfits that have formed in the past months are likely to add a regional dimension to the contest with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party coalition and an alliance of six parties led by Congress. (PTI FILE PHOTO).
Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma during an election rally ahead of Assam assembly polls. New political outfits that have formed in the past months are likely to add a regional dimension to the contest with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party coalition and an alliance of six parties led by Congress. (PTI FILE PHOTO).

With new regional parties in the fray, Assam looks at three-cornered contest

  • Election to 126 assembly seats in Assam will be held in three phases. The first phase of polling would be on March 27 for 47 seats, second on April 1 for 39 seats, and third on April 6 for 40 seats. Counting of votes will take place on May 2.
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:40 PM IST

With the announcement of the schedule by the Election Commission on Friday for the coming assembly polls in the state, Assam looks set for a three-cornered contest this time around.

Election to 126 assembly seats in Assam will be held in three phases. The first phase of polling would be on March 27 for 47 seats, second on April 1 for 39 seats, and third on April 6 for 40 seats. Counting of votes will take place on May 2. The term of the present assembly was to expire on May 31.

New political outfits that have formed in the past few months are expected to add a regional dimension to the contest with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party coalition and an alliance of six parties sewed by the opposition Congress.

Prominent among the new parties are Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Raijor Dal (RD). Both are offshoots of the violent anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests that rocked the state in December 2019 and claimed 5 lives.

AJP was launched by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and Assam Jatitabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), two prominent student organizations, which had also played a key role in the Assam Agitation against illegal immigrants between 1979 and 1985. Former AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi is the first president of AJP.

On the other hand, RD was formed by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a prominent farmers’ body that also spearheaded the anti-CAA protests. Activist Akhil Gogoi, who’s in jail since December 2019 for his role in the protests against the legislation, is the president of the party.

Both AJP and RD are contesting the polls together. There are speculations that the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), which is part of the ruling BJP-led coalition, could also join the new front.

The ruling BJP is continuing its alliance with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), but has dumped Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) in favour of United Peoples Party Liberal (UPPL), which is now heading the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

The Congress has stitched an up a joint front with All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), newly formed Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM) and three Left parties-CPI, CPI-M and CPI-ML.

While ruling BJP is banking of another term based on its social welfare schemes and infrastructure projects, new regional parties as well as the opposition Congress are taking a rigid anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) stance, which they hope would sway votes.

Non action on recommendations made by a high-level committee last year on implementation of the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord signed in 1985,that seeks to grants special provisions to indigenous Assamese people in jobs and other aspects, is also expected to be raised by parties opposed to the ruling BJP.

Though seat-sharing talks among all these fronts are still on, the period before the announcement of polls has already witnessed many rallies and campaigns across the state by all parties.

The ruling BJP, which is aiming to win over 100 of the 126 seats in the assembly, has been announcing number of social welfare schemes and infrastructure projects accompanied by frequent visits to the state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union home minister Amit Shah.

The Congress has started an anti-CAA campaign across the state after party leader Rahul Gandhi said at a rally last month that it would not allow implementation of the legislation in Assam if it came to power.

“The new parties as well as the Congress-led alliance could play spoilsport for the ruling BJP and its alliance partners. A lot would depend on how seat sharing arrangements are worked out by all parties. That could change lot of things in the coming days,” said Akhil Ranjan Dutta, political observer and professor of political science at Gauhati University.

In 2016, BJP had won 60 seats, Congress had secured 26, AGP had won 14, AIUDF 13 and BPF secured wins in 12 seats. At present, BJP has 60 MLAs, Congress’s strength has got reduced to 19, AGP has 13, AIUDF 14 and BPF 11.

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