Just 10 years ago, it was nearly impossible for a hardcore BJP supporter to see Assam as a saffron-dominated state. In the 2011 Assembly elections, Congress rode high with 78 seats in the 126-seat assembly, while the BJP languished with only five seats in their bag.
Today, however, the map of Assam politics has changed dramatically. The popularity of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has forced Congress to fight to maintain its existence in the state, which seems to be quite an arduous task for the big old party in the current scenario.
After last year’s election debacle, even after forging an alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Congress party in Assam seems to be losing ground continuously.
The first blow to Congress came when Sushmita Dev, former president of the All India Mahila Congress and daughter of Congress’ loyal Santosh Mohan Dev, crossed over to the Trinamool Congress, leaving the party’s state unity in a completely empty spot. stayed behind.
There were differences between Dev and the party-state unit over ticket distribution and seat sharing with the AIUDF.
However, she had then categorically denied rumors that she would be leaving Congress. After a few months, when Sushmita Dev switched overnight to the Trinamool Congress, the party took a huge blow, especially in southern Assam.
What’s even more surprising is that even after a year that Dev left the party, the Congressional state unit was unable to reorganize the district commission in her Silchar constituency.
In some private discussions, Dev acknowledged that the party’s future in Assam is murky, and the top leadership is also “very reluctant” to make tough decisions for the revival.
After the BJP resumed power in Assam, Shashikanta Das, a congressional MLA, went straight to CM Sarma’s office, accepted his blessings and openly announced his support for the BJP.
Although Congress immediately suspended him from the party, Das enjoys an MLA post. Not to mention that his act had further embarrassed Congress.
Rupjyoti Kurmi, a four-time MLA and once an active voice in the party, also switched to the BJP, claiming that Congress had not given him the necessary respect even after his continued good performance in successive elections.
Sushanta Burgohain, another Congressional MLA, followed Kurmi and went to the saffron camp. Both won with BJP tickets in the midterm elections.
Since AIUDF is no longer with Congress, the party will lose more seats if elections are held today.
Meanwhile, the Congress party also broke its alliance with the AIUDF, although the strategy behind this move is still unclear, even among party leaders and workers.
In Muslim-dominated areas, Congress could do well in the 2021 state elections because of its alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s party.
For example, in Assam’s Barak Valley, the BJP was able to win only 6 of the 15 seats, while the Congress-AIUDF combination won the rest. The acting president of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, was only able to win from the North Karimganj constituency after Ajmal openly supported him and appealed to Muslim voters to vote for Purkayastha.
In the Rajya Sabha elections, the party suspended its prominent Muslim face and MLA Siddeque Ahmed for anti-party activities. After his suspension, Ahmed not only turned his gun on the leaders of Congress and the party in charge, but also openly expressed his delight that it was an opportunity for him to get closer to the ruling party.
The July presidential election brought more trouble to Congress as it was alleged that many of the party members voted for NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu, who eventually became president, rather than opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha.
Assam Congress president Bhupen Borah and party head of state Jitendra Singh warned of severe punishments against those ‘traitors’. But even after almost two and a half months, the party could hardly take any action.
Congress has been a dominant force in Assam for much of the three and a half decades since 1980.
As of the 2016 State Assembly election, Congress failed miserably to address several socio-political issues in the right direction.
The BJP, on the other hand, made significant efforts to mobilize the people from the grassroots and forged fruitful alliances with various potential socio-political forces of the state.
The party’s efforts in the state were further heightened when Narendra Modi (as prime minister) came to power in the Center in 2014, and the incumbent chief minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, joined the BJP the following year.
Sarma had formulated a strategy to corner Congress by calling it a Muslim-based party, causing the great old party to lose its Hindu share significantly. On the other hand, much of the Muslim population now rallies behind the Ajmal-led AIUDF.
In the coming years, Congress may lose more of its leaders and MLAs to BJP as Sarma has openly stated that many congressmen in Assam have relations with him.
The reluctance and confusion to deal with the situation by the top management has made the situation more critical.
Therefore, there is a high probability that Congress in Assam will shrink even more in the near future and completely misunderstand its likeness in a state that gave the party many stalwarts such as Hiteswar Saikia, Tarun Gogoi and Santosh Mohan Dev.
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